Local nonprofit hosts dinner to support local farmers

ARLINGTON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A local nonprofit, Wisconsin Farm to Table, is working on teaching Wisconsinites about where their food comes from and the people who grow it. Organizers said they want people to learn what local agriculture has to offer and how they can support it.

As part of that mission, the organization hosted its sixth annual Farm to Table dinner in Arlington Saturday evening.

"We wanted to create an event where people could come out and learn a little bit more about agriculture," said Stephanie Jens, a member of the committee planning the dinner.

Each year, the event brings together farmers and consumers over a five-course meal featuring locally grown food.

"That's what our goal is is to highlight all local agriculture within Wisconsin," Jens said.

People at Saturday's event got to tour Emmons Blaine Dairy Cattle Research Center and meet the farmers who grew some of the food served.

"It's a great way for them to interact with the farmers producing this food," Jens said.

One of those farmers was Nate Calkins. Calkins' family has been in dairy farming since 1848.

"Ask a lot of dairy farmers, it's a very difficult business," Calkins said.

When Calkins took over the family business, he decided to try something different and moved to farming and raising fish.

Awareness of his business has grown, and Calkins wants more people to know about him and what he does.

"If you go back 50 years, you knew where your beef was coming from, you knew where your eggs were coming from, you knew where your meat was from - you knew them by first name," he said.

That brought him to Saturday's dinner, where he could mingle with the people eating his food. Calkins said he hopes these events build trust between farmers and their customers.

"Transparency is key to success in all regards. in my opinion," Calkins said.

He also said he wants people to know that farmers are doing their best.

"We're all trying to put our hearts and souls into good food and keep it local and make sure that people in this area feel confident about what they're eating," Calkins said.

Proceeds from the dinner will go back toward local community groups. This year, funds will go to the Columbia County 4-H Program and Deforest Area Needs Network.