FOOD CHAIN – linking urban and rural, people and land, culture and agriculture.

Through an arts-infused caravan of mobile farm stands (Roadside Culture Stands), we will create a vibrant marketplace of food, art, and ideas at existing food- and land-centered events – propagating agri/cultural actions throughout southern Wisconsin.

ArtPlace spoke with Wormfarm Executive Director Donna Neuwirth about their plans to integrate culture and agriculture to build thriving rural communities.

What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people
Roadside Culture Stands graphically unite art and farming – reminding us that culture surrounds our food and food imbues our culture. For thousands of years farmers in cultures around the world interwove dance, music and art through rituals of planting and the harvest in celebration of the land and those who care for it. In that spirit, this hybrid project presents an opportunity to reach tens of thousands of people – to expand the audience for the arts throughout the region; and to enliven the marketplace.

Each culture stand is made by a different artist. They will come together as a group to existing food/ and farming events; vending fresh produce, artworks, agri/cultural information and presenting performances. Much like a circus train coming to town they draw attention, spark new creative responses and include a variety of offerings.

Former Lt Governor and Wisconsin Arts Board President Barbara Lawton had this to say “This is a quintessential example of how a work of art can work to promote sustainable agriculture, good health, cultural tourism and animate a regional economy all at once. “

How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?

NEUWIRTH: We will bring back the costermongers! Street food and street art are global vibrancy indicators: chestnuts, break-dancers and interventions in streets of Manhattan; crepes, cafes and mimes on the boulevards of Paris, skewered entrails and acrobats on the streets of Bangkok; elote carts & mariachi bands on corners in both Chicago and Mexico City; bushels of peaches and pecans and a guitar picker under a shade tree in rural Georgia; trucks piled with potatoes and sweet corn, and roadside poetry along country roads in Reedsburg Wisconsin.

Most recently fleets of repurposed step vans transformed into upscale chow vendors park on corners in cities from coast to coast. Pop-up restaurants, underground caterers, food carts, crop mobs and interventions are linked in style and are responsive to today’s challenges. They are nimble, resilient, and alive.

Street food enlivens neighborhoods, reflects and enhances cultural diversity, creates opportunity for micro enterprise; serves as entry point for new ideas/ flavors; and reconnects us to the land and its gifts
Street art is democratic, spontaneous, inspiring and engages people when they may not expect it.

Food Chain seeks to establish strong links between, and develop complex constituencies around art and farming each strengthening and inspiring the other – no civilization can thrive without them.

Costermonger: noun. A street seller of fruit and vegetables, in London and other British towns. They were ubiquitous in mid-Victorian England, and some are still found in markets. As usual with street-sellers, they would use a loud sing-song cry or chant to attract attention. Their cart might be stationary at a market stall, or mobile (horse-drawn or wheelbarrow).

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