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Networking Across the Supply Chain: Transportation Innovations in Local and Regional Food Systems

February 20-21, 2013
Radisson Hotel, Downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin

We hit our max!

The room capacity is 100 and we’ve hit that number. Just in case a few people can’t make it after all, we are starting a waiting list. Please go ahead and register online, and if you register after February 13, we will put you on the waiting list.


This event brings professionals from across the food supply chain to the table to discuss ways to improve transportation and distribution for local and regional food. This hands-on meeting will highlight transportation innovations in the local and regional food systems supply chain in the Driftless region of the Upper Midwest and beyond.

Growers, distributors, retailers and anyone in the local food supply chain is invited to attend and to grow their business. At this conference, you’ll be able to network, share ideas, learn about innovative solutions, and give input into research and business development initiatives. Participants include growers, distributors, retailers, transportation researchers, regional and urban planners, and public sector officials.

This is a working conference. Presentations and discussions will range across the food system, exploring the current and future outlook for supply of local and regional food, retail opportunities and challenges, and distribution innovations and constraints. A conference proceedings will document the ideas, concerns, and innovations discussed at the conference.

Registration is free and limited to the first 100 registrants (including speakers). As of 2/13 we’ve got a waiting list, though, so go ahead and register.

Scroll down to view the agenda, bios and a regularly-updated list  of organizations sending representatives. Last update 2/14/2013.

Questions: Contact Michelle Miller or Peter Allen


Wednesday, Feb. 20
12:30—1:00pm: Welcome

  • Bryan Law, Conference Facilitator, Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission
  • Marina Denicoff, Transportation Services Division, Transportation and Marketing Programs, USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Michelle Miller, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin – Madison

1:00—1:45pm: Panel presentations: Market Outlook. Confirmed speakers:

  • Kymm Mutch – Project Director, Regional Learning Lab, School Food FOCUS, Milwaukee
  • Don Stanwick, Purchasing Manager for Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, Compass Group, Chicago
  • Brad Smith, Peoples Coop, LaCrosse

I:45-3pm: Facilitated small group discussions on wholesale buyer needs and opportunities.

3:00—3:45pm: Panel presentations on Connecting Supply and Demand: Challenges and Opportunities.

  • Ben Perkins, Goodness Greeness, Chicago
  • Kristine Jepsen, Grass Run Farms, Dorchester, IA
  • Nick Lichter, Organic Valley, LaFarge, WI

3:45-5pm: Facilitated small group discussions on distributor/processor needs and opportunities.

5:00—6:00pm: Networking Hour with cocktails and tapas (small bites). Cash bar sponsored by City Brewery, LaCrosse.

6:00—6:30pm: Keynote presentation

  • Brandon Scholz, Wisconsin Grocers Association

7:00—9:00pm: Theme discussions in downtown La Crosse restaurants. Participants interested in further conversation on specific topics are invited to reconvene at one of four downtown restaurants.

  • Transportation Relationships: fuel costs, drivers, equipment availability, and communication
  • Keeping the story with the product
  • Matching supply and demand: relationships and communication
  • Extreme weather and infrastructure resilience: lessons learned

Thursday, Feb. 21

7:00-8:00: Complementary breakfast
8:00—8:45am: Panel presentations on the Supply Perspective: Current Situation and Outlook.

  • Rod Ofte, Wisconsin Meadows Grass-fed beef co-op
  • Tom Ferguson, Ferguson Morningside Orchards
  • Josh Engel, Driftless Organics

8:45-10am: Facilitated small group discussions on farmer needs and opportunities.

10:00am—11:30pm: Synthesis, future R&D, next steps, participant insights and plenary discussion. Confirmed conference respondents:

  • Alfonso Morales, UW-Madison Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Ernie Perry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education
  • Craig Chase, Leopold Center, Iowa State University
  • Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center
  • Teresa Wiemerslage, Iowa State University Extension and the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition

11:30-noon. Actions to be taken in the next 6 months. Led by Bryan Law.

Optional post-conference tour: Featherstone Farm, 25 miles west of LaCrosse. For directions,


Discounted hotel room rates are available on Wednesday night at the Radisson. Just let them know you’re there for the Networking Across the Supply Chain conference. Call (608) 784-6680 or (800) 333-3333  to book your room.

Meeting sponsors

This Project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 12-25-A-5639 between the Agricultural Marketing Service/USDA and the Center for Integrated Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

FRAN– The Food Resource and Agribusiness Network  is a network of agribusinesses working together to improve the competitive advantage of businesses and the economy of the Seven Rivers region. FRAN is a geographic concentration of similar companies that share common technology, markets, suppliers or workforce skills in Western Wisconsin, Eastern Minnesota and Northeast Iowa. FRAN is providing a platform to address common opportunities and synergies that exist among regional food processing and agribusiness companies. The region has over 85 food processing manufacturers, a nationally renowned organic farming industry, 12,000 farms and 1.7 million acres in agriculture assessed lands provides great opportunities for joint ventures between suppliers, manufacturers, transporters, retailers and consumers.

USDA-Agriculture Marketing Service– Transportation and Marketing Program economists and marketing specialists at USDA Agricultural Marketing Service facilitate the development of local and regional food systems through research and analysis of agricultural transportation issues, food aggregation facilities, farmers markets, and other direct-to-consumer marketing, as well as assessment of wholesale markets and facility design.  This Program area of USDA-AMS also manages the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, DC.

For more information on agricultural transportation, please visit:

For more information on marketing services, please visit:

UW-Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) is a research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. CIAS was created in 1989 to build UW sustainable agriculture research programs that respond to farmer and citizen need and involve them in setting research agendas. The goal of work at CIAS is to learn how particular integrated farming systems can contribute to environmental, economic, social, and intergenerational sustainability.

City Brewery, LaCrosse is a premier, state-of-the-art beverage production and packaging brewery that has been transformed into a facility capable of manufacturing and packaging beers, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks and other new age beverages. They have a  packaging capacity of over 50 million cases, making it one of the largest beverage producers in the country. City Brewery is sponsoring the cash bar and is an active member of FRAN. 

———————————————————————--Speaker Biographies to date

Bryan Law

Bryan is an urban planner with the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission, where he focuses on economic development issues.  Bryan has been involved in economic development collaborative groups, comprehensive planning efforts, revolving loan fund administration, industry cluster development, flood recovery and resiliency efforts, infrastructure improvement programs, Safe Routes to School, and grant writing.  Bryan has worked closely with the Food Resource and Agribusiness Network (FRAN) and the Equipment and Metal Manufacturing Association (EMMA) industry cluster organizations.

Marina Denicoff

Marina is an economist with the Transportation Service Division at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  Her primary interest in local and regional food systems is to bring transportation knowledge and best practices of the practitioners and researchers to the forefront in facilitating efficient and effective food distribution.  Marina has over 20 years of extensive applied economic analysis in the public and private sectors.  In her current position, Marina leads projects and reports that advise agricultural shippers and policy makers on the impact market developments, regulatory and policy changes may have on agricultural transportation demand and costs.  Marina’s responsibilities vary from her leadership role in Division publications including the weekly Grain Transportation Report and Study of Rural Transportation Issues required by the 2008 Farm Bill, to participation in the USDA and interagency bioenergy coordinating activities and mentoring junior economists and interns.  She has been the recipient of numerous Honor Awards for Excellence at USDA and AMS levels.  Previously, Marina served as the chief editor for USDA’s Faculty Exchange Program publications, as an economist with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, a contributor to the daily trade newsletter, and as a commodity analyst in a multinational agribusiness firm.  She holds a B.S. in Economics and Finance from the University of Maryland and studied econometrics at New York University Department of Economics.

Michelle Miller

Michelle is Associate Director at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, UW-Madison, where she manages a number of projects related to food systems sustainability. Her expertise is in human organization, participatory research and leadership, sustainable agriculture, systems thinking and restoration ecology. Michelle also serves on the Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation board and the Organic Processing Institute board of directors. She is a native of the Driftless region, with family tiesto the region extending back to settlement times.

Kymm Mutch

Kymm brings a wealth of experience in food service management and systems change to her position as Project Director for FOCUS’ Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab. Prior to this new role, Kymm was the School Food Service Director for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), a district with 175 schools and over 80,000 students. Before becoming Food Service Director for MPS, Kymm was a procurement specialist and menu planner. As School Food Service Director, she had the opportunity to work closely with local urban farmer, Will Allen of Growing Power, to introduce locally grown produce into the school food supply chain through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. She also used the findings from the School Food FOCUS Saint Paul Learning Lab to inform her procurement work with local dairy manufacturers in Milwaukee in an effort to reduce the sugar content in flavored milk in the schools. Kymm is a registered dietitian with over twenty five years of experience in child and adolescent nutrition, eating disorder treatment, USDA meal programs, and childhood obesity prevention. She believes that sourcing food locally, eating more simply and healthfully and understanding how food is grown and prepared are significant keys to improving children’s lifelong health.

Donald Stanwick

Don is the Purchasing Manager for Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality for Chicago Public schools where he has oversight of the procurement program for 475 of the district’s schools. Donald is a food service veteran; he has worked in a wide variety of positions, encompassing every aspect of food service for over 20 years. Donald has had the opportunity to travel the country and work in several geographic regions, gaining experience and knowledge of local markets and how consumer preferences differ from region to region.  In his current role, Donald is responsible for Chartwells-Thompson’s USDA Foods procurement program, currently totaling more than $11 million annually. In addition, he manages the fresh and frozen local produce buying program which is valued at more than $1 million dollars a year.  Donald is working with to expand Chartwells-Thompson’s local procurement initiatives by soliciting producer information through a request for information (RFI) process for fresh and frozen produce and for chicken raised without the use of antibiotics.

Brad Smith

Having grown up in Rochester, MN, Brad Smith has been living and working in La Crosse since 2001.  Graduating from UW-L in 2005, he spent his last year in school also working for AmeriCorps in Houston County, MN before taking employment in Congressman Kind district office for nearly seven years.  As the Outreach Director in that office, he became increasingly interested in the Farm Bill, working with local producers and stakeholders to hear their thoughts on reforming the current system.  A member of the Co-op since 2006, Brad left Congressman Kind’s office this past summer to work on outreach and membership as the Member Services Manager for the People’s Food Co-op.  PFC’s promotion of local food systems and keeping profits local was what brought him to the organization, but the friendly and energetic environment is another reason he enjoys working there.

Ben Perkins

Ben joined Goodness Greeness in 2000. Ben has been instrumental in moving the company forward to become the premier supplier of organic, local food, in the Midwest. Ben got his first taste of the natural food industry by working at health food stores throughout the Midwest. In his first five years with GG,  Ben’s knowledge about the industry helped catapult him to become the top sales person in the company. Ben’s hard work and passion continue to pay off in his work sourcing local, organic product to market. He manages over-the-road transportation, vegetable buying and planning and buying from local/regional farms. In his spare time Ben enjoys composing film soundtracks and performing on the upright bass.

Kristine Jepsen

With her husband, Ryan, Kristine Jepsen founded and manages Grass Run Farms, producer and marketer of 100% grass-fed beef. In six years — on the strength of product quality and consistency — the company has grown through the stereotypical phases of regional foods distribution: farmers’ market, DIY distribution, contract freight, and distribution by strategic partners. GRF currently sells branded fresh boxed beef and further-processed products across the Upper Midwest, as well as wholesale for private labeling farther afield. Among operations, Kristine has extensive experience in product development, market research and analysis, marketing content creation, and IT and technology implementation. She and Ryan work anywhere they have a strong cell or WiFi signal, and live in rural Northeast Iowa with their daughter and many, many four-leggeds, not all of them for-profit.

Nick Lichter

Nick is Vice-President of Organic Logistics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CROPP Organic Valley, the nation’s largest farmer-owned organic dairy cooperative. Organic Logistics manages $90 million in refrigerated trucking and warehousing services for CROPP and approximately 20 other shippers throughout the US. Nick has held a variety of transportation, warehousing and distribution roles since joining OrganicValley in 2001. He has also worked in Project Management, Sales and Inventory Management with extensive early career operational experience in Traffic and Fleet Management. Nick lives in La Crossewith his wife Margaret and has 3 children attending Aquinas Catholic Schools.

Brandon Scholz

As President & CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, Brandon represents the retail, wholesale and supplier companies in the grocery business in Wisconsin.  WGA’s member programs include seminars, communications, governmental and regulatory affairs, member events, statewide trade show, honors, awards and more.  He has been educating his retail members for 10 years on the benefits of having a strong Buy Local program and has recognized that work with awards and write-ups in WGA’s e-newsletter and magazine.

Rod Ofte

Rod is a grass-fed beef producer and the operations manager for the Wisconsin Meadows Grass-Fed Beef Co-op. The co-op’s aim is to bring locally-produced 100 percent grass-fed beef to the closest markets, and as demand grows, ultimately establish groups of farms around the state and send their beef onto restaurants and stores in the nearest markets.

Tom Ferguson

Tom and his family have been farming apples and pumpkins for ten years in the beautiful Coulee region of Western Wisconsin. Tom fully incorporates Integrated Pest Management practices on his farm. The Fergusons own 235 acres, with 130 acres planted to apples and about 10 acres of pumpkins. Tom is a member of the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, where he was a director for eight years and held the offices of vice president (2009) and president (2010-11). He is also a member of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association and the Chambers of Commerce in Eau Claire, WI and Lake City, MN. He previously worked as a manufacturing manager with 3M and Imation.

Josh Engel

Driftless Organics was started in 1993 by Josh and Noah Engel who, at the ages of eleven and nine, were eager to start changing the world, one potato at a time. They started out by growing all sorts of different types and colors of organic potatoes and that first year they grew more than twenty varieties in all! Driftless Organics has now expanded to over 100 acres of ridge and valley fields in the beautiful Driftless Region of SW Wisconsin. They have been joined in recent years by Mike Lind and the three of them and their dedicated crew sell their wide array of vegetables to a 450 member CSA, at farmers markets, restaurants, co-ops and grocery stores all over the Midwest.

Dr. Alfonso Morales

Alfonso is a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies public marketplaces and street vendors, and the role and function that they serve in economic development. Using an innovative blend of the disciplines of sociology and urban planning, Morales has created a body of books, articles, book chapters, and other writing that provides practical insight into the ways that street-level economies and social interactions contribute to and influence community and economic development. He is among a small number of researchers who employ ethnographic field research methods to help inform contemporary theoretical debates about community food systems, public markets, space use, and street vending businesses. His primary dissertation research on Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market established the foundation for what has become a wider range of studies of the social, cultural, and economic factors that involved in the interactions between public marketplaces and the areas where they are established. His new research on community and regional food systems expands his intellectual and policy agenda through the $5 million dollar USDA-AFRI grant of which he is Project Co-Director and Research coordinator.

Ernie Perry

Ernie is the Program Administrator and Facilitator of the Mid-America Freight Coalition. Before joining the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education, Perry was the Administrator of Freight Development at the Missouri Department of Transportation. During his seventeen-year tenure at MoDOT, he also served as research administrator, organizational results administrator, senior environmental specialist, and socioeconomic specialist.  Perry has worked closely with freight leadership at AASHTO, FHWA, and MARAD, served on NCFRP panels, and participated in the Scan of European Union Freight Corridors. Perry holds a BS in animal science, an MS in rural sociology, and a PhD in rural sociology from the University of Missouri–Columbia

 Dr. Craig Chase

Craig is a farm and agricultural business management field specialist for Iowa State University Extension.  Dr. Chase has over 30 years’ experience in helping producers with business planning, financial analysis and decision-making, risk management, and sustainable agriculture and water quality issues.  Since 2000, he has been focused on analyzing organic and food-based alternative agricultural enterprises and regional food system development. In 2011 he was named the Marketing Food Systems Initiative Program Leader for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the State Coordinator for the recently funded Local Food and Farm Initiative legislation.

Ken Meter

Ken is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the U.S., integrating market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. As president of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, Meter holds 42 years experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building. His “Finding Food in Farm Country” studies have promoted local food networks in 89 regions in 31 states and one Canadian province. As coordinator of public process for the City of Minneapolis Sustainability Initiative, he guided over 85 residents in creating a 50-year vision for the city including sustainability measures. He served as an advisor for the USDA Community Food Projects including managing the proposal review panel, and serves as a contributing editor to the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Meter taught economics at the University of Minnesota, and at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Teresa Wiemerslage

Teresa is a Regional Program Coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in six counties in northeast Iowa.  She coordinates the work of the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition (NIFF) and currently serves as the ISU Extension liaison for the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.  She worked for ISU Extension for 10 years as a county extension director before her current position.  She has a strong background in plant science including horticulture and agronomy.  Raised on a sheep and hog farm in South Dakota, she now lives on a fourth generation family farm along the Minnesota border where they calve and finish 180 head of beef annually.

Featherstone Farm

Featherstone Farm is a 250 acre certified organic farm located in the bluff country in and around Rushford, Minnesota.  The farm produces 50 varieties of fresh market fruits and vegetables for distribution to natural food stores, wholesalers and  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members throughout the region. Founded in 1994 by Jack Hedin and Jenni McHugh, Featherstone Farm draws its name and focus on environmental sustainability from the Featherstone Township homestead (80 miles upriver) where Jack’s great grandfather farmed and planted trees in the 19th century.



As of 2/13, 100 registrations from 80+ businesses and organizations are received. To be on the waitlist, register online.

  1. Potato King
  2. Sonday Produce
  3. Fresh Taste
  4. Skagit Flats Farm
  5. Mystery Bridge Farm
  6. Illiana Ag Alliance
  7. Renaissance Farm
  8. S. WI Food Hub
  9. Parrfection Produce, LLC
  10. North Wind Distribution
  11. Buy Right Purchasing Group
  12. Chartwell’s
  13. Ecker’s Apple Farm
  14. Sugar River Farm
  15. Bellbrook Berry Farm
  16. LADCO
  17. Center for Freight Infrastructure, Research and Education
  18. Health First Wisconsin
  19. WI Grass Fed Beef Cooperative
  20. Horizon Organic
  21. Just Local Foods
  22. Grass Run Farms
  23. Cherry Capital Foods
  24. Fifth Season Coop
  25. Reinhart Food Service
  26. Food Network Software
  27. Coop Partners Warehouse
  28. St. Croix Institute
  29. Organic Logistics
  30. Edina Couriers
  31. Amitaba Gardens
  32. Bluff City Cider Works
  33. Wescott Agriproducts / Honeybear Brands
  34. Vandewalle & Associates
  35. Mississippi River Regional Planning
  36. Seven Rivers
  37. Chicago Local Foods
  38. Channel One, Inc
  39. USDA Rural Development office, SW Wisconsin office
  40. ISU Extension
  41. Crossroads Resource Center
  42. Sustainable Community Initiative
  43. MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
  44. West Wind Community Coop
  45. Profitable Growth Network
  46. Renewing the Countryside
  47. Land Stewardship Project
  48. University of Minnesota
  49. UW-River Falls
  50. Cooperative Development Services
  51. Green Lands, Blue Waters
  52. One Eleven Main
  53. Ceres Trust
  54. Farm Commons
  55. Vernon County Farm to School
  56. Green and Rural Development Nepal
  57. ISU – Leopold Center
  58. Intertribal Agriculture Council
  59. Central Rivers Farmshed
  60. Northeast Wis Tech College
  61. Full Circle Farm
  62. Wisconsin Farmers Union
  63. Morningside Orchard
  64. Goodness Greeness
  65. Wisconsin Grocers Association
  66. USDA – AMS
  67. Feeding America
  68. Heartland Community College
  69. Health First Wisconsin
  70. WI Department of Agriculture
  71. Minnesota Department of Health
  72. Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development
  73. School Food FOCUS
  74. WisDOT
  75. Sustainable Community Initiative
  76. Northern IL Univ Center for Govt Studies
  77. Land Stewardship Project
  78. Dane Co UWEX
  79. Organic Processing Institute
  80. Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
  81. UW-Madison