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Wisconsin Parent

High on the Food Chain: Sustainability in Stevens Point

Nov 12, 2014 08:30AM ● By Julie Henning
Sustainability is more of a way of life than a kitschy trend these days and the more I travel, the more I see small towns setting the finest example of how a community can live within an equally compact carbon footprint. A few weeks ago I was in the Stevens Point area learning about the Wisconsin State Cranberry Harvest and found several different examples of sustainability around food and farming. And while some are more "granola" than others, each is doing something within a business model that benefits the business and the bigger picture.

In no particular order, here's what I found:

Central Rivers Farmshed


"Farmshed’s mission is to expand the connection between local residents and their food by providing opportunities for participation, education, cooperation, and action to support a local food economy in Central Wisconsin. We believe food should be grown in a sustainable manner, people should know how to buy, grow, harvest, preserve, and prepare local foods, the public should know local farmers, farmers should know who eats their food."

Layne Cozzolino is the Executive Director of the Central Rivers Farmshed and says people should think of the food system holistically instead of a silo. Cozzolino produces the Central Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas, a listing of farms, businesses, and organizations that pledge they are family  or cooperatively owned, operating in a way that protects the region's land and water resources, providing safe and fair working conditions for employees, treating animals with care and respect, and selling products made using raw materials grown on Wisconsin farms.

Layne CozzolinoIn addition to a community potluck served the second Tuesday of every month, Central Rivers Farmshed works in collaboration with the local farmer's market and area school children. Housed in the former Sorenson's Greenhouse building, Farmshed is making improvements to the complex like solar panels for electricity and a new commercial kitchen space that will soon be available for people like Alec Linde, owner of Tortuga Express (see below) to operate in a much larger facility.

Great Northern Distilling


The only craft distillery in Central Wisconsin, Great Northern Distilling has "tapped" into the local farming community to source ingredients for their spirits that are crafted in small batches in a handmade copper still.

"Our process starts with sourcing the highest quality ingredients from local farmers. Whether it's potatoes for our vodka, grain for our whiskey, or fruit for our brandy, we are committed to sustainable sourcing from within 150 miles of the distillery."

Interior Great Northern DistillingVisitors to Great Northern Distilling can engage in a tour, taste the products, or order a craft cocktail made to order at the mixology bar shown in the photo above. All cocktails are around $6 and range from the Wisconsin Old-Fashioned (Vanguard Whiskey, Luxardo Cherry, Local Maple Syrup, Housemade Orange Bitters, Angostura Bitters, and Seltzer) to fun and creatives like Fill McDill (Vodka, Cucumber, Dill, Fresh Lemon Juice, Seltzer, Sriracha and Peychaud's Bitters) and Tee Time (Milk-wash Tea Infused Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, Local Honey Syrup and a dash of salt).

Founder Brian Cummings is a chemical engineer-by-trade and general all around nice guy. He told me, "I’m a big believer that you grow where you’re planted and you don’t have to go to the big city with the ivory tower where everyone thinks the great ideas come from. The Midwest has a long past of great hard work, dedication, and productivity–whether it’s industrial or agricultural–and I want to live in that community and support my neighbors and local farmers to create great spirits from materials that we source no more than 150 miles away."

Emy J's

Emy J's:

Chalk on the signs at Emy J's Coffee House and Cafe remind you to "Be Fair. Be Local." and ask "Who's Your Farmer?"

"Emy J's Cafe uses the finest and most locally produced ingredients we can find to create a wonderful and unique menu."

Emy Js CafeA brightly colored and tidy space with ample room for meeting friends and time with your laptop, if you order a cup of coffee it will be organic and fair trade. The ice cream is from Wisconsin and smoothies are made with real fruit, yogurt, and locally-produced honey.

And with the risk of using a horrible pun, you are quite literally putting your money where your mouth is when you go out of your way to support businesses like Emy J's and the Main Grain Bakery located just next door.

The Main Grain Bakery


With doilies on cake plates and family recipes plastered to an entire wall, The Main Grain Bakery is like stepping into a foodie's Instagram account.

"The Main Grain Bakery offers the highest quality artisan bread, sweets, and special order desserts made from all organic and local ingredients in a sustainable manner."

The Main Grain Bakery InteriorAnd, yes, the items behind the counter taste as delicious as they look (see the feature image above to understand why I'm never voluntarily jumping on the gluten free bandwagon).  Do you see more solar panels in the photo below?

The Main Grain Bakery ExteriorTortuga Express

Facebook Page:

"Tortuga express is a food cart bringing delicious tacos and quesadillas, excellent sauces, and refreshing beverages to wherever the fun is."

The beginning of the food cart movement in Stevens Point, Tortuga Express brings a bit of the Southwest to the Midwest. Owner Alec Linde lived in Tucson, Arizona for many years says, "I love many ethnic foods and I do plan to serve others over time, but I started with the Southwestern cuisine because I felt more comfortable with it and also thought it  would be more accepted in Central Wisconsin. I also wanted it to be different than other ‘Mexican’ food that is available here."

Tortuga Express Stevens PointWhile many of the ingredients Linde uses in his recipes are not grown here (chilies, tomatillos, corn for masa, as an example), he is working with local growers to determine if they can supply these items in a way that is profitable for both parties. Local pork and chicken is plentiful; expect to see more local products on the menu in 2015 (like a sweet potato chipotle taco with a squash substitute). Shown below is the most delicious (and authentic) Southwestern meal I have enjoyed since I was in, well, Tucson. The cat cookie was made locally by the Gingerbread Hag Ovens in Amherst (and one of the best business names ever if you ask me).

Tortuga Express TacosPJ's SentryWorld


"Vision. Warmth. Personality. Good taste. And a healthy dose of everything that makes Wisconsin great. From the name to the menu, SentryWorld’s new restaurant didn’t have to go far for inspiration. PJ's – SentryWorld is truly a celebration of Wisconsin and everything it’s known for."

Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of my recent trip to Stevens Point was PJ's SentryWorld restaurant near the highly-acclaimed SentryWorld Golf Course. I have never been patient enough to enjoy golf, but I do know many golfers who speak highly of this complex and it is now open after 28 months of renovation. Built with reclaimed wood and 26,000 square feet of white oak from Minnesota, the facility was designed by an architect who was influenced by the design principles of famous Wisconsin citizen Frank Lloyd Wright.

Interior PJs Sentry World

On the menu are hearty meals like Grilled Pork Chop (brandy roasted apples, sharp cheddar potatoes, and farm vegetables), a nightly Blue Plate Special like Monday Meatloaf (bacon, onion, roasted tomato ale glaze, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable assortment), Venison Chili (slow roasted bell peppers, tomato, onions, great northern white beans, dark ale, and all the fixins), Point Root Beer Float (tap root beer from Point Brewery and Wisconsin ice cream), and the notorious Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry. PJ's uses Neuske's bacon and local cheese, of course. Flowing out onto the back patio, patrons can gather around the gas fire pits in the cooler months or a get the whole family into a game of beanbag toss on the lawn. The restaurant is open all year round (check it out the next time you make a trip Up North).

Exterior PJs Sentry World

For more information on how sustainability is settling in Stevens Point—or to come see it for yourself—visit the website for the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau:

My trip was sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Stevens Point Area CVB. All of the content and opinions are my own.