Unity Lutheran Church in Bay View hosted a Winter Farmers Market and brunch on January 14, connecting sustainable agriculture with its faith-based mission of community outreach.

The Winter Farmers Market partnered with the congregation at Unity Lutheran Church to initiate and support conversations around food, faith, and farming. The event series was created so people could gather in church halls, around the greater Milwaukee and Madison areas in the Winter months, and share a meal that includes ingredients sourced from local producers.

“When I was in high school, I volunteered at food pantries in Waukesha. I was a rural farm girl and it was the first time I ever saw people with food needs. I remember that was a defining moment for me, helping someone find groceries that did not require cooking to prepare because he had no way to heat the food. So, feeding people is very important to me,” said Rachel Hahn-Hanson. “I am also a community nutrition educator, and I teach people how to create healthy meals out of things donated from food pantries and local gardens from churches in the area.”

Hahn-Hanson is the program coordinator for the Food, Faith and Farming Network, and also a partitioner at Unity Lutheran Church. The event provided an opportunity to connect her faith and food justice mission.

Many Wisconsin farm families have experienced a financial crisis in recent years. The condition has also created a rural problem that dislocates both farming and non-farming families. For every 7 to 10 small farms that are lost, one Main Street business in a rural community will fail.

“A portion of the proceeds from the event supports the Harvest of Hope Fund. It is a financial grant started in January 1986 to provide financial assistance and hope to Wisconsin farm families in difficult economic conditions,” said Linda Sheridan, Coordinator for the Winter Farmers Market in Milwaukee. “Since its inception, the fund has provided more than $1 million to farm families in crisis situations.”

The Harvest of Hope Fund (HOH) is an ecumenical, faith-based organization that has provided more than 1,500 gifts of financial assistance to small Wisconsin farm families, helping them to meet emergency needs for food, home heating, fuel, medical or veterinary expenses, electric power cut-offs, damage from climate conditions resulting from drought or floods, feed for cattle, or machinery repair. Funding is also available to help purchase seed, fertilizer, and other supplies for spring planting.

At the Unity Lutheran Church event, the community brunch was prepared by volunteers from the congregations, and all the food was sourced locally. The Food, Faith & Farming Winter Markets offered a variety of items from baked goods, to fresh produce, meats, eggs, preserves, apples, cider, syrup, steel cut oats, handmade alpaca fiber products, and a venue for a public brunch.

Participating vendors this season include Alice’s Garden, Beehive Alchemy, B.S.W. Farms, Cakes by Linda Kay, Clock Shadow Creamery, County Road Alpacas, Four Corners of the World, Gary’s Market, Green’s Friendship Acres, Green Fire Farm, Happy Destiny Farm, J. Wade Confections, Log Cabin Orchard, Oly’s Oats, Plowshare Gifts, Savory Accents, Scotch Hill Farm, and Vibrant Gardens.

“Working in collaboration with communities of all faith traditions, the Food, Faith & Farming Network promotes earth stewardship, community, spirituality, and economic justice in relationship to healthy food and farming practices,” added Sheridan.

The organization seeks to help local farmers sell their products and generate income during the winter months, offer a community meal made with sustainably-produced foods, educate the public about the importance of buying local and sustainably-raised products, give urban neighborhoods a stewardship platform for the land, promoting economic justice, and foster spirituality by building relationships with farmers and among local community members.

Schedules and Updates – 9:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.

  • Sunday February 11 – Lake Park Lutheran Church – 2647 N. Stowell Avenue
  • Sunday February 18 – Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church – 2366 N. 80th Street
  • Sunday March 4 – St. Sebastian Catholic Church – 1725 N. 54th Street

Lee Matz