Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Local Food Flavors, Made With Renewable Energy


 Farmers Market in Stevens Point Wisconsin

If Central Wisconsin doesn’t jump top of mind as a hipster eco-travel destination, think again.  This vibrant community brings together a diverse line-up of everything from farm-to-table fare worthy of big city zip codes to the oldest and longest running farmers’ market in the state. Come for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association's Energy Fair, one of the largest sustainability events in the country held every June, and linger for multiple ecotourism experiences and tasty farm to fork dining opportunities.

If you haven’t been to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) Energy Fair yet, you are in for a sustainability-intensive experience. One year, the event was even powered by renewable energy produced on site despite the rest of the county going without power due to a storm. Today, attendees and exhibitors can plug-in their electric vehicles to solar-powered chargers for free. Held the weekend closest to the summer solstice, this pop-up outdoor event offers multiple workshops in tents covering topics from getting started with solar electric systems to living off-grid. My husband and photographer, John Ivanko, and I first attended the Energy Fair when we started homesteading now over two decades ago. Thanks to this event and the expertise it brings together, we evolved our Wisconsin farm and B&B, Inn Serendipity, to now run completely on renewable energy in addition to other green design elements such as heating with wood.

Today, we are honored to return annually and lead workshops that share our experiences on topics from frugal eating tips from our Farmstead Chef cookbook to supporting others to start food businesses in your home kitchen as we write about in Homemade for Sale. Thanks to our successful lawsuit lifting the ban on the sale of home baked goods in Wisconsin, we also offer bakery items at the Fair, including  John’s hand-decorated “go solar” sun cookies, an Energy Fair crowd favorite.

“The fact that the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Energy Fair started here thirty years ago sets the stage for the eco-minded entrepreneurial community we have today,” shares Layne Cozzolino, executive director of Central Rivers Farmshed, a nonprofit representing all aspects of the food system in the Central Wisconsin region. “Between the Fair and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus attracting eco-minded students who decide to stay, we have a very vibrant population of start-ups that prioritize both stewarding the land, our food systems and community.” 

As with many area ecopreneurs, Cardozza wears multiple sustainability hats and recently launched Siren Shrub Company, her new business venture that produces drinking vinegars showcasing Wisconsin grown flavors like Door County cherries. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is home to the nation’s first conservation education major created in 1946 with the College of Natural Resources and going strong today.

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