Farmers Market & Stepping Stones

Even while walking through Menomonie, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot of history and meaning behind what we see. What once was a town devoted to the logging and brick-making industries has now effectively been “reprogrammed” to serve the purposes of UW – Stout. Old houses that may have once been home to lumberjacks are now used as fraternities and sororities, the shiny Greek symbols attached to weathered and peeling wood. While walking further, you can see where newer homes have been constructed, in indication of how Menomonie has expanded since its founding. At the farmer’s market, local vendors comprise most of the stalls, and these vendors in turn are made up of individual families. It gives a sense of community, to know that these are local people, providing the products of their own labor to the rest of us that live here. The food itself is good, and the care given to growing the moderate quantity available definitely shows. Stepping Stones was also a sign of community in Menomonie. While helping to support the homeless and others in need with food, shelter, and other opportunities is already an admirable cause, there is more to it than that. Much of the items available for purchase, the manpower for their community projects, and even the money that funds their activities comes from local people and businesses. This is indeed a caring, close-knit community.

– Kyle F.

Mine was the group numbered 3 and we were led by Dr. Thomas Pearson. We walked around the town and visited the farmer’s market and an organization called Stepping Stones. Along the way we passed a Greek fraternity party in a local park and we passed a lot of old buildings including a creepy, rundown, abandoned school. At the farmer’s market we talked to the venders who were all very nice and I bought a Zestar apple. There were the most amazing fruits there including apples and raspberries and there was a wide variety of garden vegetables. The Stepping Stones’ office building is about 3 blocks from the farmer’s market co-op. What Stepping Stones does is they provide housing, food, and other services for homeless or poverty stricken in the Menomonie area. Heidi told us all about their volunteer work and services. Overall it was an enjoyable and educational experience.

– David F.

Today in the University Honors Program, I had the unique opportunity of exploring the city of Menomonie and learning more about two rather diverse and perhaps shadowed industries: Farming and Social Services. First, my group went to the Menomonie Farmer’s Market, featuring over 30 vendors selling a wide variety of farm fresh produce, meats, and even hot foods (Farm Fresh Atlas, 12). The most notable aspect of the market was the extraordinary quality and care put into crop growth. In speaking with Wilson Mills, owner of Circle K Orchard in Beldenville, I learned that he employs Integrated Pest Management Systems to ensure the long lasting integrity of his food. In all, the Menomonie Farmer’s Market is an attraction you will not want to miss. Our second stop brought us to the Stepping Stones of Dunn County. The non-profit organization’s tag line says it all: Food, Shelter, Support. Heidi Hooten, Shelter Coordinator at Stepping Stones, explained the ever growing demands placed on her organization and its resources. “Dunn County is the fourth poorest county in the state,” says Hooten, explaining why such a high demand is exerted against her facilities. Stepping Stones is always looking for more volunteers to staff their two main facilities: the shelter itself and a local food pantry. In addition, Stepping Stones is looking to open a brand new Warming Shelter. The shelter, to be operated at St. Joseph’s Church in Menomonie, will offer short term housing for anyone wishing to avoid the ever colder winter nights. I am very glad I had the opportunity to further explore Menomonie, and I am certain it has helped make me feel a little more at home in what used to be a foreign city.

– Joshua D.

As an honor student, we were welcomed into Menomonie by taking a tour of the community. We split into several different groups and visited many of the main locations throughout the town. The group I took part in went to the local farmers market and Stepping Stones of Dunn County, which is a food pantry. At these sites, we learned numerous facts about the area.  The farmers market is filled with many assorted fruits and vegetables; it is also very promising to find that everything there was completely organic and grown within a fifty-mile radius of the area. The crops there are typically grown by different cultures; they tend to be very good and hard working at what they do as well. This location shows both variety and multicultural aspects, which says a lot about the community as a whole.  Food pantries are also filled with many different people from countless different backgrounds. At Stepping Stones, we were informed of the nonprofit organizations that they offer. Menomonie has a poverty level of 15%, which is extremely high; it’s the fourth highest poverty stricken area in Wisconsin. Because of this, they offer a food pantry, where tickets are needed to get food for each month (each person in a family receives $200 a month, which is just enough food for the average person to get by). Other operations that Stepping Stones runs are hotels and temporary homes, and for the “overflow” a warming shelter is offered for the night. What most found astonishing was the amount of people on the waiting list for a home (which a family can only stay in for thirty days as they receive help in numerous ways); it is an eighteen-month wait. Menomonie is a small community with a lot going on. It is filled with beautiful scenery along with people who just want to help.

– Cheyenne D.

Through my participation in the “City as Text” Freshman Honors activity I made quite a few observations pertaining to the city of Menomonie. I made several of these observations while walking through a residential area of the city. First, I discovered that there is a dramatic difference of a home of a college student(s) versus that of a yearlong, permanent resident. It was fairly easy to distinguish the residence of a college student(s), as it (generally speaking) is not in great condition. Many of the homes were not visually appealing. Most had peeling paint, an utter lack of outside landscaping or decorative touches to add to the beauty of the structure, and an unkempt lawn. Upon entering the full-time, permanent residential area you immediately saw landscaping, decorative touches, and well cared for homes and lawns. Essentially the difference between the two residential “classes” was the difference of well maintained and simply a roof above one’s head. While we continued on our exploration of the city, we stopped by the local farmer’s market. What struck me the most while at the farmer’s market was the nationality of many of the vendors. Most of the vendors looked to be Asian. I was not willing to ask them personally what nationality they were, as I thought that may be rude, but after asking a fellow vendor I was told that most were Hmong and Vietnamese. This struck me as intriguing because the city of Menomonie is not a large city (and thus I wouldn‘t think the city would offer a whole lot of diversity). Having such a concentration of this group of people in this sort of business is interesting and worth looking into. Even the lunch area at the farmer’s market catered to this group of people, serving food like egg rolls, spring rolls, and fried rice. Lastly, what I found interesting and saddening at the same time (while at the Stepping Stones food pantry) was the large percentage of homeless in Dunn County. I was informed that Dunn County has the 4th largest homeless percentage in the state of Wisconsin. I found this news very depressing but was pleased to find out that there are programs and organizations that are taking great strides to reduce this rate. I really had no idea how many outreach programs were available for the aid of the homeless, poverty stricken, or those simply in need of a helping hand. Today, all in all, was a really an eye-opening experience as to how much Menomonie has to offer. Yes, it may be a college-town, but it truly has so much more to offer and to explore.

– Amanda D.

During “City of Text” on September 10th my group walked to the Farmers Market and Stepping Stones. It was a great time walking around the town of Menomonie and seeing all of the changes that have happened over the years. There is a large change from the college campus to the residential living areas. We first arrived at the Farmers Market; here there was a wide range of food including fruits and veggies. There was a wide range of ethnicity selling these foods also. Everyone there was from around a fifty mile radius and came to the fairgrounds everyday to sell their organic grown foods. After the Farmers Market we walk a couple blocks over to Stepping Stones Food Shelf. Here we were shown around the new facility and told about the volunteering. They have a great way of giving out to those in need. They are soon going to be setting up a warming house where the homeless can go for the night to get a small meal and have a warm place to stay. They can always use volunteers to help out in the warming house and shelter.

– Shayla G.

When people come to the city of Menomonie, there are many places, people, and opportunities that are just waiting to be discovered. I had the fortune of seeing a couple of these hidden gems early on Saturday afternoon as a part of the Honors Orientation. Myself, along with a group of about ten to twelve other students, got to travel to the Menomonie fairgrounds to see a farmer’s market that is open twice a week. This was a great experience. I, in my short lifetime, have personally not been to a farmer’s market, so seeing how the small fruit and vegetable stands were run, and how close to home the products were grown was nice to know. After spending about thirty minutes at the market, our group went over to Stepping Stones, a food pantry located in Menomonie. A tour was given to us, and we were then briefed about how the pantry works, who is eligible to receive products from Stepping Stones, along with the warming shelter that they will be putting up in November with the help of St. Joe’s church. The afternoon was a great chance to see different parts of town, as well as an opportunity to talk and get to know some of my classmates a little better, too.

– Zachary, D.

Being a freshman in college in your first week is super busy and full of excitement.  Since I come from a small town it’s a change of pace coming to Menomonie where everything from fast food to Walmart is within walking distance of the campus, so to take time out of my day to walk to the farmers market was really nice.  On the walk there we walked past an old school house that looked abandoned and it made you think about the times when kids used to play in that school yard and it makes you wonder what they learned about.  Even though the farmers market was small it was bursting with color and life.  Walking past the booths looking at all the fresh fruit and vegetables that people put their hard work into growing, it was almost like everything that they were selling there had its own little story.  Food doesn’t just end up on supermarket shelves by itself and its interesting to see the people behind the food we eat and talk to them about how they grow their crops.  The Stepping Stones Food Pantry was also like stepping into a different world.  We take for granted having food, shelter, and clothes every day, the things that other people go without.  It makes you reconsider your wants and needs: do you really need that new pair of shoes?  Do you really need to drive your car when you could easily walk there?  We take these things for granted, but the volunteers at the food pantry see people just getting by and they help them as much as possible.  It’s nice to know that there are people in this world that care more about bettering someone else’s life than their own.  This whole experience was an eye opener and showed me a side of Menomonie that I never knew existed.

– Taylor G.

No one knew what to expect. All we knew was that our destination was the Farmer’s Market followed by Stepping Stones. As we began leaving campus, we were to question essentially everything. Close to UW Stout’s campus, house after house was rented by college students. They were unkempt, obvious that they housed students. The further we walked, the tidier the lots appeared. These homes were owned by more permanent individuals, those who appreciate Menomonie for what it is. Finally, we arrived at the Farmer’s Market. All of the produce was harvested within a 50 mile radius. Not only was that an interesting aspect of the Farmer’s Market, but the venders were from all different cultures. After our stop at the Farmer’s Market we worked our way towards Stepping Stones. To my surprise, Stepping Stones was a food pantry. We were given a tour and a synopsis of what all goes on there. On this little trip, I learned a lot about Menomonie, many things ranging from the poverty stricken population to Menomonie’s fresh produce. Each of us examined our surroundings and learned to look at it with a new point of view. All in all, it was a day well spent.

– Seneca D.

Attending the City as Text orientation really benefited me to learn a little more about this area.  To start off simple I never knew that there was a farmer’s market near here and also how poor Menomonie’s economy and unemployment rate was.  Then when you look deeper into each visit there is to that I found.  You can read an ad for the market or pick up a pamphlet for Stepping Stones, but you get a lot more from actually going to these places.  At the Farmer’s Market there were many different cultures represented; from the typical American farmer to families of Hmong immigrants.  Stepping Stones triggered a slightly different reaction from me.  To hear from a woman that actually works there and experiences helping these people first hand.  She puts so much emotion into her job that it is almost inspiring to potential volunteers and appeal to them to volunteer themselves.  I thought this was powerful to learn about.  I’m glad we got to have this experience.

– Robert D.

My exploration of Menomonie entailed adventuring through the Farmer’s Market and Stepping Stones Food Pantry; each being important parts of the community here. The Farmer’s Market revealed the multiple cultures and identities in the surrounding area of Menomonie along with the wonderful organic choices that the Market has to offer. The Food Pantry made me more culturally aware of the booming 15% poverty rate in this 15,000 citizen town!

– Chalsey F. 


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