Wisconsin July 21, 2017
The Tiny Wisconsin Farm Town That’s Now A Midwest Food Destination
In the southwest corner of the state, in the middle of the Driftless region, tiny Viroqua is making a name for itself as a foodie destination in the Midwest. Taking advantage of the abundance afforded by the surrounding farmland and using their small town sensibilities, the folks in Viroqua have created an awesome, unique little town who’s companies are having a global impact.
As a move was made toward bigger conglomerates in this country, the folks around here fought to keep their small farm - and each other - afloat. They focused on local businesses, created cooperatives and today have a unique, delicious town.
Organic Valley is the largest organic farming cooperative in North America.
Vernon County has become a mecca of organic farming. Organic Valley was first just a very small co-op that brought together local farms to help them fight against big conglomerates. It's grown to a business that helps nearly 2,000 farms with everything from marketing to distribution and it employs 900 people in Vernon County.
Driftless Cafe owner and chef Luke Zahm was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest.
The little cafe has a rotating menu based on local crops and the chef's whims. Zahm can tell you where each ingredient comes from and that farm-to-table sensibility has served them well. Folks are traveling from around the midwest to have a meal here. Located at 118 W Court St, Viroqua, WI 54665.
One huge reason for the boutique, local food movement that's caught on in Viroqua is the Viroqua Food Enterprise Center.
Commercial kitchens are expensive, as are packaging and labeling equipment. The Food Enterprise Center is a kind of co-op that allows small businesses to share space and resources. Scotchwood Candy Company is one local business that uses those resources. So does Kickapoo Coffee, Fizzeology, Wisco Pop, Sky Moon Farm, Nami Chips and Yooli Foods. It's been so successful that they've also moved into incubating other small businesses outside the food community.
B&E's Trees is another local business that takes advantage of that shared space.
They harvest maple syrup on 64 acres of local woodland. They also collaborate with Central Waters Brewery to create their own Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. Those barrels move on to Central Waters to create a maple stout.
Fifth Season Co-op provides many of the Food Enterprise Center with their raw ingredients.
This co-op is well on its way to doing for organic produce what Organic Valley did for dairy. It's giving advantages to the small farms that they would not normally have. Located at 1201 N Main St #9, Viroqua, WI 54665.
The folks at Rooted Spoon are former employees of the Viroqua Food Co-Op and Organic Valley that headed out on their own.
This gorgeous area draws weddings and special events and a catering business that creates the same locally-sourced, seasonal food the area is known for is a natural expansion. Now they own their own event space and in addition to catering, they host 1st Thursday dinners, Friday night social hour and Sunday brunch. Located at 219 S Main St, Viroqua, WI 54665.
Vernon Vineyards Winery is one of more than two dozen wineries in this county.
The hilly lands here allow for the grapes to gather the sun and precipitation to run off, making it a good spot for vineywards. Vernon Vineyards is located at S3426 Peterson Lane and Highway Y, Viroqua, WI 54665.
You'll basically want to eat your way through Viroqua, but it's not the only thing to do here. There's also a couple of local music festivals, the Vernon County Fair, a farmer's market as well as nearby markets in Gays Mills and Ferryville, a Summer Arts Festival in Soldier's Grove and more.
In addition to those mentioned above, there’s tons of sandwich shops, bakeries and other small, local businesses that have been here for awhile and subscribe to the same ideas of local sourcing and community cooperation. Viroqua is a unique spot and if you support local farms, local business and darn good food, a trip here had to be on your radar.
Looking for more small town eats? Check out
Most People Don’t Know These Small Towns In Wisconsin Have AMAZING Restaurants.