Why do we do this? We ask ourselves that question every year as we scurry about madly, preparing to welcome, entertain and educate folks who come to the Kickapoo Country Fair. And every year when the fair is over, we know the answer to that question in our tired but happy bones.
To be together.
To eat, laugh, and learn together.
To share this gorgeous paradise in which we live, farm and work: The Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin.
One question folks ask us is: How did it all start, this wild, wonderful get-together we call the Kickapoo Country Fair?
It started in 1997 as a smaller celebration years ago. Back then it was called the “Kickapoo Getaway,” and began as a two-day, al fresco, red carpet picnic for the farmer-owners of Organic Valley and for the retailers who sold Organic Valley products in their stores and believed in our mission in the very early days of the coop. We wanted store owners to meet and hang with the folks who work so hard to get the product to their stores, and for farmers to get to know the folks who work so hard to sell what they produce.
The Getaway was a smash hit and consisted of many of the activities that are still part of the Fair agenda today: canoeing the Kickapoo River, farm tours, music, and most of all, best of all, it was about food, food and more food. Locally grown or raised (and therefore fresh), organic, prepared-with-love food. There was (and is) plenty of that available, since the Driftless boasts the largest concentration of organic farms in the U.S.
Back then we were still pretty small, pretty tight, and centered in the Midwest. But as co-op membership spread from coast to coast along with the number of stores who carried our products, it was difficult to get all those people here! So we came up with another way for our farmers and grocers to get together: Farm Days. These celebrations rotate through different regions of the country from year to year, giving the farmers and grocers in each area a chance to have their Getaways a little closer to home.
But what about that awesome summer picnic-party we all got so used to right here in the Driftless? We didn’t want to let go of that. Of course, our CEO, George Siemon (who visioned the Getaway in the first place), brainstormed the perfect solution, an extravaganza that surpassed the intentions of the Getaway by a country mile.
The Kickapoo Country Fair as it’s known today kicked off in 2004, fulfilling George’s vision to share our bounty with and welcome ALL the folks right here in our neck of the woods who believed in us and helped us grow. Today the Fair gives thanks to our regional partners and supporters, our community, our farmer-owners, and, finally, our loyal citizen-partners who share the vision of an organic today and tomorrow, together.
From nationally recognized guest speakers, to food and music programming, to displays by local vendors and artisans, we’ve got it all. (Okay, we don’t have a Ferris wheel.) Folks come from far and wide to enjoy our hospitality, only to find there’s much more to make of their time here, like camping, canoeing, biking, hiking, horse trails, and antiquing. For water lovers, the Kickapoo, Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers wind through the ancient, dramatically creased geology of the Driftless like gorgeous, liquid ribbons.
So really, the weekend is still a “Getaway” of sorts, only for a lot more people than it used to be. We welcome you all.
Organic Valley Family of Farms ©2013