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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 17.0° F  Fair
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Thinking local in the grip of Walker boycott fever
Don't buy that!
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Wisconsin is in the grip of boycott-mania - witness the rapid-fire postings on the "Boycott Scott Walker Contributors" Facebook page. No union or other organization has called for an official boycott of any business or product, but there is a lot of "voluntary consumer activism" at work. The list of funders, and possible boycott subjects, is voluminous.

"Even targeted boycotts are very difficult," says UW-Madison associate professor of history William P. Jones, "so one this diffuse is not likely to be effective." Jones notes that successful actions - the Montgomery bus boycotts and the one against non-union grape growers in California - were "focused on one company and supported by vigorous picketing."

But for those participating in the Facebook discussions, sometimes the protest is about where they feel comfortable spending their money.

Don Taylor, assistant professor at the UW School for Workers, agrees that focused boycotts are more effective at making an actual economic impact but figures that there's also a public-relations impact, "especially within Wisconsin," that could create pressure on management.

"The Koch brothers are a high-profile target of the anti-Walker movement," says Taylor, "and the value of a blanket boycott of all their consumer products is mainly as a rallying point for the anti-Walker movement itself."

At the Willy Street Co-op, staffers have fielded questions on whether the co-op carries any Koch brother-owned products, says communications director Brendon Smith. (It does not.) A rumor that Green Forest, the recycled toilet paper brand, was a Koch-owned company prompted a Willy Street staffer to investigate. A company that used to own Green Forest, but later sold it, is now Koch-related, but at no time have Green Forest and the Kochs overlapped, says Smith.

The story brings up the problem of knowing who owns what these days. For instance, "With the bigger organic companies snapping up the smaller organic companies," Smith notes, it can be hard to figure out which companies are related, especially since "it's not always in the interest of the big organic company to have the consumer know it owns the small organic company."

As the locavore movement stresses, buying from small, individual, local producers supports local business and makes it easier for the consumer to determine how food is grown and produced, how animals are treated - and even whether the producer has political views the consumer wants to support, or not.

Two high-profile Wisconsin-based food producers on the list of "Employers who gave over $5,000" to the Walker campaign are Sargento (cheese) and Johnsonville (sausage). Finding other Wisconsin-made cheeses, if that is the consumer's choice, is not a difficult task.

And the Madison area has many resources for fresh, house-made bratwurst and sausage as well. Jim's Meat Market on Northport Drive, the Jenifer Street Market, Regent Market Co-op, Jacobson's, Ken's Meats and Deli on Monona Drive, Knoche's on Old Middleton Road - all make their own brats. Stoddard's Country Grove Market in Cottage Grove and the Village Market in Waunakee make brats and summer sausage in-house.

Black Earth Meats, 1345 Mills St. in Black Earth, is a certified organic butcher shop focused on pasture-based agriculture that makes its own brats and sells a summer sausage from its meats.

Ruegsegger Farms Natural Meats, found at the Paoli Market, 6895 Paoli Rd. in Paoli, also makes its own brats (from meats including ostrich and bison) and summer sausage.

And the Cates Family Farm of Spring Green offers smoked summer sausage from its free-range, grass-fed steers.

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