Janesville67°

Center for Land and People has a new home

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 9, 2007

In the late 1980s, the government declared that the farm crisis was over.


But Sister Miriam Brown knew farmers still were struggling.


So Brown and a group of church leaders and farmers created the Churches’ Center for Land and People at Sinsinawa Mound in southwestern Wisconsin.


Now, more than 18 years later, the center has a new home in Janesville and a mission that’s evolved.


In late October, Tony Ends, a Brodhead farmer and executive director of the center, opened the center’s office in Trinity Episcopal Church’s parish hall, 419 W. Court St.


This Saturday, the center will hold its first event at the hall: A winter farmers market and brunch featuring local products.


How did an organization get from farm crisis to farm market?


When it was first formed, the center made the immediate connection between the farmer and the community.


“We had three themes: Earth stewardship, community and spirituality,” Brown said, in a phone interview from the Siena Center in Racine. “We soon found that we had to add ‘justice’ to our themes.”


Sinsinawa Mound hosted meetings on rural issues and even served as the host for early organic farming conferences.


Many small farmers and organic producers were struggling in isolation, and the center brought them together with religious and rural leaders.


Today, organic farmers are connected via the Internet and a variety of organizations, and the public is becoming aware of the importance of locally grown food.


However, many consumers still are disconnected from the people who grow their food.


The winter farmers markets do two things: First, they give farmers a market and a fair price for their goods. Second, they give consumers a chance to meet producers and the opportunity to buy quality, locally made or grown products.


Ends argues that the winter farmers markets also allow people to be “instruments of justice” in their own communities.


For example, if sheep producers don’t have a direct market for their product, they have to sell it at a livestock auction, where they won’t necessarily get the best price, Ends said.


For farmers with smaller herds, the cost doesn’t always cover the cost of production.


However, a producer with a direct market can get a fair price for his or her products—and that’s justice.


Since he took over as executive director of the center, Ends has been committed to expanding the number of winter farmers markets in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Iowa.


In 2003-04, the center held three markets; this year, Ends hopes to have 70.


He’s also hoping to include more vendors—and churches—in his efforts.


For Ends, the center’s job is to help consumers make the connection between spiritual values and food and food production.


“It goes beyond money to the needs of the people; it’s about creating a relationship between people,” Ends said.


At this Saturday’s market, 10 percent of the proceeds will go to Harvest of Hope, an organization that helps farmers in crisis.


On Sunday, Ends will start an eight-week class based on food and faith. The class, which starts at 11 a.m. in the parish hall, will look at food and its relation to ecology, economy and social justice.


If you go
What: Churches Center for Land and People winter farmers market and brunch.
When: Farmers market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Brunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. People are asked to buy their tickets in advance for the brunch by calling (608) 754-1877.
Where: Ortmayer Hall, next to Trinity Episcopal Church, 419 E. Court St., Janesville.
Cost: Admission to the farmers market is free. The cost for brunch is $8 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12; free for children younger than 5.
If you go
What: An eight-week course called “Food and Faith,” led by Tony Ends of the Churches Center for Land and People.
When: 11 a.m., starting this Sunday.
Where: Ortmayer Hall, 419 E. Court St., Janesville.
Cost: $12 covers the cost of the materials.

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