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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Culinary journeys
Two unusual tours get diners closer to the food
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With fall's fast approach, the time to get out and find fresh foods before the cold comes is now. And just in time, on Sept. 29, are two unique events that will give you the chance to get up close to your food and the people who produce it.

First, Sustain Dane, in partnership with the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co. and the Spring Green Chamber of Commerce, is offering an unusual way to see and taste the bounty of southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless Area: on a train, which departs from Madison and travels to Spring Green.

Once in Spring Green, participants will be able to tour Cedar Grove Cheese Factory, sample local foods and meet growers at Local Choice Farm Market, and visit Otter Creek Organic Farm and Learning Center. The "Autumn Train and Trail" tour is the culminating activity for the International Ecotourism Society's annual conference, which will be held in Madison Sept. 26-28.

"We really saw the conference as our opportunity to put Wisconsin on the ecotourism map, and to draw attention to all of our wonderful local businesses and food producers, while supporting sustainable transportation," says Katie Ross, Sustain Dane coordinator. "This is a once-in-a-blue-moon chance to ride a train through the fall color and sample all these local flavors."

Cheryl Hoeper, manager of the Local Choice Farm Market, is excited to show off all of her market's local vendors. "It's really important to our community and region to support our local farms and to give consumers the chance to meet some of them," she says. Local producers expected to be on hand that day include people from Gorman's Meat Locker, Blue Marble Dairy and Hawkwind Mustard and Relish.

Tickets for the event cost $30, and passengers must make their reservation by Sept. 21. Contact Sustain Dane at 819-0689 or mailto:train@sustaindane.org.

That same Saturday, the Madison Area CSA Coalition is offering a local-foods-fueled bike tour of three member farms, beginning and ending in Madison.

Called "Bike the Barns: MACSAC's First Annual Tour de CSA," the tour benefits the coalition's Partner Shares Program, which makes fresh local food available to underserved and low-income households in the Madison area. Since 1997, over 2,300 households have received fresh local food through the program.

MACSAC coordinator Erin Schneider calls the bike tour a "great way to reinvigorate the connection to place, because CSA is all about connections between consumers, farmers and the land."

The tour includes breakfast, snacks and a three-course lunch prepared by Underground Food Collective, Café Soleil and other local cooks, all included in the $35 registration fee. The full ride is 60 miles, but a shorter, 27-mile ride is an option for riders who arrange to be picked up at the lunch site, Vermont Valley Community Farm near Black Earth.

Non-bikers are also welcome to show their support for the Partner Shares Program by coming for lunch at noon to Vermont Valley Community Farm. (The lunch by itself costs $25.) Registrations must be received by Sept. 22. Learn more about the ride and the Partner Shares Program at www.macsac.org/bikethebarns.

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