Curb is produced and published every fall by a class of students in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Through passions, hardships and discoveries, “Pulse” explores the heartbeat of what drives the human experience and propels the people of Wisconsin forward.

Curb is produced and published every fall by a class of students in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Through passions, hardships and discoveries, “Pulse” explores the heartbeat of what drives the human experience and propels the people of Wisconsin forward.


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Milwaukee pioneers

a freshwater future


Injured wildlife get a second chance


Track the rise of electronic dance music

Chefs adapt to challenging era for restaurants

By Design Team






Badger ON




Continue on your UW journey with the Wisconsin

Alumni Association® (WAA). Share in Badger spirit.

Access all things UW. Strengthen campus

connections — and more! WAA is here for all alumni

and for every stage in your life as a Badger.



2 Letter from the editor

3 Products you just can’t beat

4 Perfect places to raise your pulse

5 Spots to visit this winter/Born near you


SURVIVE Embrace the spirit of endurance

6 Prairie protectors







Incorporating the unincorporated

Return to the wild

Band-Aid on a bigger wound

Unhoused and unprotected

At the helm

The education exodus

STRIVE Experience difficult realities










Warm your heART

King of vintage

Things I learned about Wisconsin

Our living history

The best place to raise a family?

A new narrative

No meat? No problem.


“A love and a legacy”

THRIVE Celebrate feats and successes









Plant a seed

Surf’s up, Sheboygan

Beyond the books

Meet IronMANDI

A draw to the Driftless

Cricket and community

Beat by beat

Heart to heart

On the cover: Three friends enjoy a sunny October day as bikers

pass by on Oak Leaf Trail in downtown Milwaukee. Photography

by Perri Moran.



Every minute of our lives, our pulse is constantly

fluctuating. Whether we are standing up or lying down,

moving around or sitting still, stressed or relaxed, our

heart rate is constantly changing — just like our lives. Scientists

say that our heart rate adapts to our body’s need for energy

throughout the day, just as we as a society adapt to the changes

life throws at us.

To say the last two years have been hard is an understatement.

We have lived through one of the worst pandemics forcing us

into an international shutdown while facing an increasingly

polarized political environment that has further divided our

country. The situation has forced our society to revamp and

reevaluate the way we live.

Through all of the hardships, we often find ourselves asking:

What does it truly mean to be alive? While for some it might

mean living every day to the fullest and striving to become an

elevated version of themselves, for others it means doing what

has to be done to make it through to the next day.

This year, the Curb team took the “Pulse” of Wisconsin.

We dug into what drives the heart that beats and propels us

forward. In this issue, we explore the passions, hardships and

discoveries that shape the people of Wisconsin.

We traverse the state through stories of how both people

and businesses have fought to survive these difficult years,

what they have done to continue to thrive and how they

strive for greatness, bettering themselves and the surrounding

community. It’s only up from here.

All the best,

Brooke Messaye

Editor In Chief

There’s more to love!

Visit us at curbonline.com

Curb is published through generous alumni donations and

administered by the UW Foundation and in partnership with

Royle Printing in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

©Copyright 2022 Curb Magazine


Brooke Messaye, Editor In Chief

Gina Musso, Managing Editor

Erin Gretzinger, Lead Writer

Christy Klein, Lead Writer

Erin McGroarty, Lead Writer

Charlie Hildebrand, Copy Editor

Allyson Fergot, Copy Editor

Zehra Topbas, Copy Editor


Ann Kerr, Business Director

Emily Rohloff, PR Director

Jake Rome, PR Director

Samantha Benish, Marketing Representative

Jamie Randall, Marketing Representative

Robin Robinson, Engagement Director


Zoe Bendoff, Art Director

Anica Graney, Production Editor

Annabella Rosciglione, Production Associate

Thomas Hill, Production Associate

Perri Moran, Photo Editor


Nicole Herzog, Online Director

Mason Braasch, Online Producer

Matt Blaustein, Multimedia Editor

Braden Ross, Multimedia Editor

Stacy Forster, Publisher

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are

attributed to Perri Moran



By Zoe Bendoff

We all have things that

make us tick and fill our

hearts with joy. Curb Pulse

is all about diving into

the lives of the people of

Wisconsin to find out what

drives their experience in

the state. Here are some

items to help you fuel the

things that excite you.

Whether you’re an avid

music lover, a health nut,

a connection seeker or

simply enjoy the thrill of

a racing heart rate, these

products are sure to match

your rhythm.

For the ones who

just can’t stop the beat

Happy Face Throw Pillow

Bluetooth Speaker


Listen to your favorite jams

with quality sound technology

from the comfort of your

favorite spot in your home with

this multifunctional pillow and

Bluetooth speaker.

Game That Song


Test your knowledge of your

friends’ and family’s favorite

beats and build connections as

you groove to the rhythm.

JBL Tune Wireless On-Ear

Headphones 510BT


These lightweight, wireless

headphones featuring JBL’s

Pure Bass Sound make for

an elevated music experience

whether you’re getting your

blood pumping or relaxing.

For the thrill seekers

Meta Quest 2: Advanced

All-In-One Virtual Reality

Headset - 128GB


Skydive, walk the plank or get

in a bar fight from your living

room with this virtual reality

headset guaranteed to make

your heart race.

“The Woman in the Window”

by A.J. Finn


Anna Fox, who is suffering

from agoraphobia after a car

accident, thinks she witnessed

a murder in her neighbor’s

apartment. This psychological

thriller will keep you on the

edge of your seat.

For the heart healthy



Incorporating just two servings

of avocado in your weekly

diet can lower your risk for

cardiovascular disease and

heart attacks.

BlendJet 2 16 oz.

Portable Blender


Whether you throw in hearthealthy

leafy greens, fresh fruits

or vegetables, this portable

blender makes the perfect

pulse, even on the go.

For those curious about

what makes others tick

We’re Not Really Strangers


Take your relationships to new

depths and challenge your

assumptions with this thoughtprovoking

conversation game.

“I Never Thought of It That

Way: How to Have Fearlessly

Curious Conversations in

Dangerously Divided Times”

by Mónica Guzmán


Guzmán’s book teaches us we

can find common ground to

connect from the heart, even

during the most polarized times.


Perfect Places to

Raise Your PULSE!

If you answered mostly As:

Wisconsin Northwoods

Find out where your next Wisconsin thrill should be!

By Allyson Fergot

1. How do you feel about the outdoors?


Nothing’s better B. I like it, but indoor C. Eh, not for me

than fresh air

plumbing is nice

2. How much money are you comfortable spending on a trip?


Honestly, I need to B. I have to buy some C. I’m treating myself!

save money


3. Do you like roller coasters?


B. C.

They’re alright I LOVE THEM! I get motion


The Northwoods offer an opportunity to disconnect

from technology and reconnect with nature. Night

fishing, waterfall chasing or snowmobiling are sure

ways to get your blood pumping.

If you chose mostly Bs:

The Wisconsin Dells

4. How do you feel about crowds of people?


Solitude is my


B. I can live with them C.

5. Who are you taking on this trip?


B. C.

Me, myself and I Looking for some

family fun

6. What would you rather do?


I like getting lost in

the crowd

Just my S.O. and

Fish for a musky B. Go on a ghost tour C. See a live band


The “Water Park Capital of the World” has a little bit

of something for everyone. Tall roller coasters and

water slides will keep an adrenaline junkie satisfied.

If those aren’t your thing, magic shows, haunted

houses or riding in one of the Wisconsin Ducks will

give you the excitement you seek.


7. How do you prefer to spend your weekends?


B. C.

Hiking People watching at

the farmers’ market

Exploring museums

If you chose mostly Cs:


8. What are you packing for the trip?


The book on my


B. A camera C.


9. You feel your best in...


B. C.

Athleisure Tee and blue jeans Anything that says

10. Why do you want to travel?


To escape day-today

B. To have as much C.


fun as



To explore the city

I’m visiting

Between great food and cool museums, Milwaukee

is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a thrill.

Don’t forget to listen to some live music or visit the

Milwaukee County Zoo while you’re there. Being

around the buzz of Wisconsin’s biggest city will

make you feel alive.





By Ann Kerr

Wisconsin’s economy thrives on the

inventions founded here. Many places

that you pass by every day have been

the birthplace of groundbreaking new



In 1924, Carl Eliason created the

blueprint for the first snowmobile.

In the Northwoods of Wisconsin,

Eliason was in a garage behind

his general store in Sayner when

he thought of the idea of a motor

toboggan. This

idea sparked the

invention of the


American Girl Doll

Pleasant Rowland developed the

concept for American Girl dolls in

1986. The dolls were created to help

teach girls important

moments in history and

aspects of girlhood, and

each was built with her

own unique story. The

dolls were manufactured

in the Madison suburb

of Middleton by The

Pleasant Company.


Christopher Latham Sholes worked

as an apprentice for a printer, but

after four years, he quit to join his

brothers who published a newspaper

in Green Bay. In 1864, Sholes saw the

initial patents for a writing machine

and decided to see if he could do

something similar. In 1868, Scholes

was granted his initial patent for

his “letter-printing machine” in

Milwaukee, and in

the following years,

he was granted two

more patents.




By Nicole Herzog

As the days become shorter and the temperature drops, finding activities to keep

busy can be a challenging task. Though Wisconsin is often known for its summer spots,

there are a wide variety of both popular and hidden gems throughout the Badger state

that offer ideal winter activities for all ages. Grab a hat and gloves, and start exploring!

Take a Day Trip to Copper Falls

State Park

Snowshoe, hike and ski your way through

the picturesque scenery of Copper Falls

State Park. Located in Mellen in northern

Wisconsin, the park contains more than 15

miles of winter trails. Experience mystical

frozen waterfalls and snow-covered views

in this real-life winter wonderland. Whether

you prefer an active adventure or a serene

day trip, Copper Falls is the perfect winter

destination to add to your itinerary.

Even in the

bitter cold,

these dreamy


thrive with


Explore the Apostle Island Ice Caves

While the Apostle Islands feature

beautiful scenery in the warmer months,

the mainland ice caves at the Apostle

Islands in northwestern Wisconsin are also

a breathtaking sight in the winter. When

Lake Superior freezes over, the sea caves

are laden with icicle formations. This is

an ideal destination for winter sightseeing

as the magnificent landscape can serve as

an exciting opportunity for photos and an

appreciation of nature.

Engage Your Senses at the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market

Farmers’ markets are not just a summer activity — from freshly baked goods to satisfying

soups, the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market offers delicious treats for all to enjoy

this winter. Visitors can support local vendors while tasting the best seasonal goods in

Wisconsin. This is also a great place to purchase holiday gifts, such as jarred spices, jams

and artisanal oils. While your heart (and stomach) may be full afterward, a break from the

freezing cold temperatures at this indoor farmers’ market will keep your body satisfied this

winter season.




Wisconsinites bring the past into the future by restoring native prairies

By Allyson Fergot

On the edge of a neighborhood

park in La Crosse sits a dense

prairie. Its tall, browning

plants stand in stark contrast to the

freshly mowed, dark-green grass that

surrounds the park. It’s a clear line

between careful control and self-sufficient


When you approach the boundary

between the manicured lawn and the

native landscape, you realize how

thick the prairie is. Thatch from the

plants conceals the ground, making

the soil something you can only

imagine. The winding yellow-green

grasses 10 yards from the border

block your view to the other side.

The prairie is only four acres from

one end to the other, but you could

easily get lost in the thicket.

There’s a soft but constant buzz

in this ecosystem alive with various

insects and birds. The purple, yellow

and white flowers visible to an outsider

are dotted with the few remaining

pollinators. It’s autumn now.

Soon the sound will dull, the flowers

will lose their color and the birds will

migrate south.

This prairie, a sanctuary for wildlife

and virtually impenetrable by

humans, was not here 15 years ago.

It was brought into existence in the

late 2000s by a group of amateur

conservationists who were interested

in bringing Wisconsin’s native landscape

into the future.

Before European settlement, prairies

were an essential tool for the

well-being of Wisconsin’s habitants.

The prairies’ ability to create nutrient-rich

soil led Europeans to convert

them into agricultural land.

When Europeans first settled in Wisconsin,

prairies took up 2.1 million

acres. Today, less than 10,000 acres

of native prairie remain. In their

place stand houses and farmland,

shopping centers and schools, and

miles and miles of interstate. This

modernization left prairies as one

of the most decimated landscapes in

the U.S.

Now, some Wisconsinites have discovered

a passion for restoring Wisconsin


“It’s progress and whatnot, but I

think you have to have a good imagination

to think back prior to European

movement here ... to see the native

grasses and plants and trees,” says

Gregg Erickson, one of the amateur

conservationists that reconstructed

the prairie by the park.

Erickson, now retired, used to

work as a science teacher at Central

High School in La Crosse. About 15

years ago, Erickson wrote a grant for

seeds to grow a prairie containing

native plants where he could take his

students for educational purposes.

Erickson’s friends, including my

dad, helped him prepare the land,

plant seeds and burn away weeds in

order to establish the new prairie.

Now, whenever I walk through my

neighborhood or play volleyball in

the park with my little sister, I get to

see a sliver of what Wisconsin used

to look like.

Since restoring the prairie in my

neighborhood, Erickson has reconstructed

more prairies, including one

in his backyard. A prairie brings with

it a whole ecosystem, and Erickson

says there has been a clear change in

the wildlife behind his house.

The author’s father

helped restore this

prairie in La Crosse

in 2020.


“Turkeys love to eat grasshoppers,

and because we have so many grasshoppers

around, there’s turkeys all

over the place laying their nests in

our grasses,” he says.

Jack Buswell, an attorney in Sparta,

a half hour east of La Crosse, first

got involved in prairie restoration

and management in 1997 when he

took over his family farm.

“The real reason I did prairie restoration

was to create upland habitat

for birds such as pheasants and

quail,” Buswell says.

Prairie restoration is not for the

faint of heart, though. The preparation

process and continuous weed

removal can be tedious, and it can

take years before the first native

plants sprout. A prairie requires little

maintenance once established,

except for a routine cleansing every

few years to clear dead plants and

any invasive weeds that have sneaked

into the area.

One of the best ways to effectively

get rid of weeds is through one of

Earth’s most feared elements: fire.

There are other ways to maintain

a prairie, like spot treating weeds

using herbicides or by mowing, but

Neil Diboll, president and owner of

Prairie Nursery in Westfield, in the

central part of the state, says fire is

the best method.

Although starting out can seem

overwhelming, conservationists

agree the benefits associated with restoring

a prairie outweigh the initial

investment of time and money. Not

only do restored prairies add natural

beauty to a landscape and create

habitat for pollinators and endangered

species, they’re also a crucial

component to fight climate change

and mitigate its effects.

Prairies can store carbon deep into

the earth because their root system

stretches multiple feet into the soil.

This makes prairies incredible carbon

sinks, which means they absorb

more carbon than they release.

The soil structure and root system

of prairies also absorb water quickly.

This water absorption mitigates the

effects of flooding.

Because of habitat creation, envi-

ronmental impacts and sheer beauty,

people working in prairie restoration

have noticed an increased

interest toward it.

“I think things have really been

picking up momentum and picking

up steam... in the areas of prairie

conservation, protection and management,”

says Armund Bartz, a conservation

biologist at the Wisconsin

Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR has partnered with

private landowners to restore and

manage properties. Darcy Kind,

a private lands biologist with the

Wisconsin DNR, focuses on restoration

and management to benefit

at-risk species. Since she started

working on the program in 2005,

there has been a steady increase in

people looking to restore prairies.

“Some people feel like they need

to create this habitat because they

really want to see monarch butterflies,”

Kind says. “Then some people

know the history of the property,

know that they once had a prairie

on their property, so they’re trying

to get it back.”

Other groups across Wisconsin

are working toward improving the

status of prairies in the state. The

Grasslands 2.0 project is educating

farmers on how agricultural land

can be converted into future grasslands

and native prairies, which can

be grazed by cattle; much like how

Wisconsin’s native prairies were

once grazed by bison.

Despite the steady increase in interest,

Bartz is hoping more people

across the state become involved in

prairie restoration. “It’s an underdog

habitat that really needs help,”

he says. “Prairies are a part of our

history, part of our culture, a link to

the past and a potential resource for

the future.”

This prairie in La

Crosse is starting

to die as winter

approaches. The

plants will be back

in bloom by





The peaks and valleys of an unincorporated community

By Ann Kerr


The morning fog

covers rush hour

on Reiner Road in

the unincorporated

community of Burke.

“That’s an opportunity that

wouldn’t be available if it

were a larger community

because it’d be such a higher


It is not uncommon for one to be

curious about the in-between.

The homes, farms and playgrounds

that we see in a passing blur

as we zoom by on the county highways

and interstates.

For much of Wisconsin, these are

unincorporated towns and communities.

They’re tucked in between

cornfields quilting central Wisconsin,

resting below a series of lakes

and filling the sprawling root of the

peninsula. These places narrate the

story of the state’s rich history.

In Wisconsin, there are 1,246 unincorporated

towns spanning all 72

counties. These towns provide fundamental

services to about 95% of

Wisconsin’s geography and 30% of

its population.

Even though these communities

don’t have typical municipal governance,

they have a heartbeat of their

own that means something to the

people who live there, and they are

fiercely loyal as a result.

For Steven Berg and Lisa Rubrich,

the unincorporated town of Burke

offers residents the quieter, smaller

community feeling they were looking

for. Burke — sandwiched between

Madison and its largest suburb,

Sun Prairie — was founded in

1851 after its separation from the

nearby commuity of Windsor.

Burke quickly became a popular

layover spot for travelers as early

settler Horace Lawrence established

The Prairie House, a hotel located

on the road from Burke to Portage.

While The Prairie House no longer

exists, Burke is still a common

travel pit stop. Many people take

advantage of the gas stations located

along the interstate in Burke.

“It’s kind of a funny thing that

people stop here on their way to

somewhere else,” Berg says.

Rubrich has lived in Burke since

2003 and now serves as a supervisor

on the town board.

She initially moved to Burke because

her kids could be bused to

nearby schools. In addition, the lot

sizes were large and she could pay for

and manage her own well and septic

systems, making her yearly taxes

lower. The town was also quiet and


Berg moved to Burke in 2004 to be

closer to his job in Madison. Since

living there, he’s served on four different

commissions, as well as the

town board.

“That’s an opportunity that

wouldn’t be available if it were a larger

community because it’d be such a

higher population,” he says.

Changes for Burke

In 2036, Burke is slated to be annexed

by the surrounding towns of

Madison, DeForest and Sun Prairie.

Berg explained that Burke’s bigger

neighbors could annex any land they

wanted as long as it was adjacent to

their own borders.

In 2004, the people of Burke

worked with lawyers to create a

boundary agreement between these

three municipalities to allow the

town to remain unincorporated.

While this agreement freed Burke

to prosper for the last 18 years, its

expiration date is set for 2036, when

Burke expects to be taken over by

Madison, DeForest and Sun Prairie.

Rubrich wants people to remember

Burke for the same reasons she

moved there — a welcoming and

friendly community that has operated

smoothly on its own and served

its people well.

Rubrich believes that the annexation

of Burke will change its personality

“from a quiet hamlet to a

quite different style of community,”

she says. “We want to leave a legacy

for people who are going to get annexed

so that they remember that ...

Burke was Burke at some point.”



The heartache and joy of the people who nurse Wisconsin’s

wildlife back to health

By Emily Rohloff

In January 1992, a single call forever

changed the lives of, Yvonne

Wallace Blane and her husband,

Steve Blane, co-founders of Fellow

Mortals Wildlife Hospital.

In the days after that first call,

around 150 sick Canada geese would

be brought to Yvonne and Steve to

be treated. There was no facility —

only two bedrooms, a living room, a

kitchen, a basement and a porch in

their little log cabin home located in

the southeastern town of Delevan.

Neither Steve, Yvonne nor their

team knew what was wrong with

the geese or if they could treat them.

Fellow Mortals’ experiences treating

wildlife involved dealing with

fractures, head trauma, orphaning,

starvation and dehydration, but

never this.

Today, 31 years later, Fellow Mortals

Wildlife Hospital is in a new location

near Delavan, in Lake Geneva,

and takes in about 2,000 injured

or orphaned wildlife patients annually

at no charge. Yvonne and Steve,

along with their team, have become

the heartbeat of wildlife care, providing

a place full of second chances for

Wisconsin wildlife.

The nonprofit’s 52 acres and

10,000-square-foot facility includes

The owl, Darby,

a permanent

resident of Fellow

Mortals Wildlife

Hospital, rests

on a perch at the




a state-of-the-art hospital, heated indoor

habitats, large flights, a critical

care wing and isolation wards.

Fellow Mortals relies entirely on

donations. The organization receives

some of their funding through a

monthly donation program called

Team Hope. Here, members can

choose to donate anywhere from $1

to $500 a month. Donors for this

program also receive quarterly email

updates on how their donations are

being used to provide direct care to

injured and orphaned wildlife.

When tending to the sick geese

in 1992, the Blanes sent the geese to

be tested by the staff at the National

Wildlife Center in Madison, who

confirmed the geese were contaminated

with lead poisoning.

Yvonne, Steve and their team began

treating the geese through lavages,

which is the removal of lead from

the gizzard. They also called for help

from local and state federal agencies,

such as the Wisconsin Department

of Natural Resources and the U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yvonne, still heartsick about the

event, remembers dreading each

morning having to walk in the cold

over to the holding areas to collect

the dead bodies of the geese and

bring those dying inside her house

for warmth.

The geese in critical condition

stayed in Yvonne and Steve’s small

kitchen and living room to keep

warm. The other geese were kept in

kennels, set up hastily in their backyard,

tarped against the bitter cold

and wind with bedded straw and

heat lamps.

Today, it is the memory of the 74th

bird, who acted as a totem during

that horrible time, that stays with

the Fellow Mortals’ staff. To the Fellow

Mortals’ team he represented

all of the birds who were rescued,

fought to survive, and lived or died.

The team was able to release him on

Easter Sunday of that year, and with

him, release the horror of those few

months. The state and federal agencies’

belief in the Fellow Mortals’

staff and their assistance with personnel,

advice, caging and evidence

collection is what is helping make

their effort a success.

The cause of the sickness was not

dealt with until several years later, in

October 1996, when the U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency began

removing more than 28,000 tons of

contaminated soils and sediments

from the site where the Canada

geese, and hundreds of other wildlife,

had been exposed.

It was the worst case of lead poisoning

in southeastern Wisconsin’s

history, and it was the first time the

EPA ever got involved in a case that

resulted solely in the loss of nonhuman


“I think we had about 300 animals

maybe that year,” Yvonne says. “Our

numbers pretty much doubled overnight.

That was really the turning

point I think for us where we knew,

or we realized, we had to make a decision.”

And make a decision they did.

Gail Buhl, program coordinator

for the Partners for Wildlife at the

Raptor Center in Minneapolis, says

Yvonne and Steve have brought high

standards to the field of wildlife rehabilitation

in Wisconsin by creating

Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital.

“They have the best practices in

mind all the time. Yvonne and Steve

working together to design buildings,

caging, or whatever it is, is

magic to watch,” Buhl says. “And that

partnership is what really built Fellow


Their most positive experiences

are the ones where the staff of Fellow

Mortals can see the animals’ care

come full circle.

“They heal very quickly and they

have a great will to live,” says Dr. Scot

Hodkiewicz, a volunteer veterinarian

at Fellow Mortals. “The goal of

all these animals is to be able to get


Last October, a goose was dropped

off at the Fellow Mortals facility. She

had been shot, had a broken leg and

could not stand because of the tissue

damage from the pellet embedded in

her foot. However, she fought and

fought, and she refused to give up.

The goose accepted the care of the

Fellow Mortals staff and eventually

made a full recovery. The team

was able to release her back into the

“It means a lot to us that one life

is saved, because it’s a life.”

wild, an emotional moment for all

the staff.

“She gets out and she walks up to

the water, she spreads her wings really

big, she does a little tail feather

wiggle, and she’s so happy,” says Jessica

Nass, an advanced wildlife rehabilitator

and biologist at Fellow Mortals.

“Those are the little gems that

keep us positive and keep us feeling

like we are doing the right thing.”

The Wisconsin public also appreciates

the effort and education provided

by the nonprofit.

Nass recounts how in September

2022 a gentleman brought in an owl

to the Fellow Mortals facility after

he’d been watching it sit on a log for

a long time. The man was nervous

to help, but Nass and other Fellow

Mortals’ staff talked to him on the

Yvonne Wallace

Blane, co-founder

of the Fellow

Mortals Wildlife

Hospital (second

from left) and

the core team of

caretakers and

specialists at

Fellow Mortals

Wildlife Hospital.

phone and guided him through the

process of how to safely capture and

bring the owl into the hospital.

The man, upon bringing in the

owl, explained to the staff that he

had recently lost his wife, who was

an avid lover of owls. He believes the

owl is her spiritual animal and his

wife was trying to reach him.

“We, as humans, have the capability

to interject ourselves into these

things and do the right thing,” Nass

says. “It means a lot to us that one

life is saved, because it’s a life.”

The respect for wildlife and all living

things propelled the idea of Fellow

Mortals to flourish.

Its foundation dates back to when

Yvonne and her husband managed

a mobile home park. As Yvonne

was mowing the lawn one day, she

accidentally ran over a nest of baby

rabbits. Yvonne, upset and unsure

of what to do, called several animal

hospitals, but none of them had a

solution to help besides advising her

to let nature take its course.

Unsatisfied with this answer,

Yvonne and her husband took the

baby rabbits into their home and

cared for them, nurturing them back

to health and then releasing them

back into the wild.

“For me, it is mostly a matter of

respect, appreciation and a feeling

of duty that these other species that

share our space are being impacted

by human activities every single

day,” Yvonne says. “They have no

one to speak for them. They have

no one to help them. They have nowhere

to go. And so that’s really why

we’re still here today.”

Fellow Mortals’ impact continues

to grow. She and her husband want

to convert Fellow Mortals’ 52 acres

of land into a permanent home for

wildlife that can no longer be released

back into the wild.

They envision having local community,

school and church groups

come into a controlled environment

and letting them interact with and

learn about the different wildlife of

Wisconsin, while making sure the

animals still have privacy and space

to retreat.

The team at Fellow Mortals Wild-

life Hospital is passionate and committed

to helping the wildlife of Wisconsin,

no matter the condition, size

or species that comes to them.

“We really do run on faith and

hope,” Yvonne says. “I sometimes say

one promise, one purpose, one life at

a time.”

An array of wildife

can be found at

Fellow Mortals

Wildlife Hospital,

including this

baby squirrel who

is a current Fellow

Mortals resident.



Debt forgiveness plan would provide relief but falls short

of addressing the heart of the student loan crisis

By Erin Gretzinger


The first time Emerson

Boettcher cried about the

cost of college, she was only

in sixth grade.

It was the height of the Great Recession.

Then, her mother started to

lose her vision — and eventually her

job. As her family’s finances tightened

under the strain of unemployment,

the dreaded question arose in

Boettcher’s mind.

“I remember so clearly: That

message is just like, ‘You need to go

to college to get a job,’” Boettcher

says. “And at the [same] time, I was

just being told no to new basketball

shoes; being told no to go to the

movies; being told no to like literally

any normal child experiences.

“And I was like, ‘Well, I’m having

an abnormal life because of money.

What if it doesn’t change, and I can’t

go to college like everyone around

me,’” she says.

But there was one thing that

Boettcher’s younger self didn’t yet

understand about paying for college:

“Obviously, I didn’t know what the

heck a loan was when I was 11.”

Boettcher, now a 24-year-old high

school teacher in Minneapolis, says

she feels like she is in a “pretty decent

boat” compared to others with

student loan debt — with about

$25,000 still remaining.

“This is defining the rest of your

life,” Boettcher says of her student

loans. “Not just the next four years,

but also the next eight, and then,

therefore, the rest of your life.”

There is a beacon of hope for the

thousands of Wisconsinites — like

Boettcher — with debt. In August,

the Biden administration announced

a plan to provide loan forgiveness of

up to $20,000. The proposal could

cancel the debt of almost half the

nation’s borrowers, including more

than 300,000 eligible in the state.

But the road to debt relief remains

unclear as borrowers are stuck indefinitely

waiting to see if Biden’s

plan will withstand legal challenges.

Amid this period of uncertainty, experts

have pointed out a blind spot

in Biden’s plan: the danger of a onetime

debt “jubilee.”


Regardless of whether Biden’s plan

comes to fruition, experts and borrowers

will continue to grapple with

how to combat the student loan crisis

at its sources to sustainably address

debt for borrowers today — and the

next generation.

How We Got Here

According to UW–Madison’s Student

Success Through Applied Research

Lab, an estimated 715,800

Wisconsin residents have federal

student loan debt, which represents

about one-fourth of the state’s labor

force. Wisconsin borrowers owe

$23.1 billion, putting the average

balance at about $32,230 per person.

Cliff Robb, a UW–Madison expert

in college student financial behavior,

says the number of borrowers and

the amount students borrow has increased

in the last decade. Accounting

for inflation, tuition at public

four-year institutions has more than

doubled since the early 1990s.

According to Helen Faith, a student

loan expert who works as UW–

Madison’s director of student financial

aid, the university’s tuition costs

over 22 times more than it did five

decades ago.

“When you talk to folks who maybe

went to college quite a while ago

... [they] will say, ‘Well, you know,

when I went to school, we just

worked part-time and we covered

our costs,’ and I think oftentimes

there’s a failure to realize that the

cost of education has gone up substantially,”

Faith says.

Federal programs like the Pell

Grant — a means-based award that

doesn’t need to be repaid — were

designed to help make college more

affordable. But Robb and Faith say

those support systems have not kept

up with predictable rising costs. The

Pell Grant, for example, used to

cover nearly 80% of tuition at public

four-year universities. Today, it is

worth one-third of its original value.

The result: Students take on more

debt than previous generations.

Boettcher’s concerns about paying

for college never faded after her

epiphany in sixth grade. Despite being

admitted to Georgetown University

in Washington, D.C., Boettcher


instead left her northeastern Wisconsin

hometown of Two Rivers

to attend UW–Madison and save

some money with in-state tuition.

During college, she worked 20 to

40 hours a week and spent her spare

time on scholarship applications.

After graduation, Boettcher joined

an AmeriCorps program, a nonprofit

that provides service-year opportunities,

in part because of grant

assistance that offers some student

loan forgiveness.

Following a similar path to

Boettcher, fellow UW–Madison

graduate Justine Mischka worked

for AmeriCorps to help pay off part

of her student loan debt. Still, she

is unsure of when she will get out

of debt.

“I work at a nonprofit, and we’re

all 20-somethings with college

debt,” Mischka says. “None of us

have any sort of short-sighted goals

of paying off our student loans.”

Significant at the Margins

Robb and Faith note that the average

borrower can successfully pay

off their student loan debt since

college degrees often lead to higher-paying

jobs. However, one-third

of all borrowers don’t actually finish

college. Other issues, such as massive

interest accumulation or certain

aggressive loan packages, can

further hinder borrowers.

“It’s not like every person is in

a bad situation because of student

loan debt,” Robb says. “It’s more at

the margins, but it’s still significant

at the margins.”

Complicating the process, Robb

says young people don’t always understand

the magnitude of debt.

This was certainly the case for

Mischka, a Whitewater native, located

in southeastern Wisconsin.

In high school, as Miscka worked

for pocket change at Rocky Rococo

and her single mother provided the

necessities, even college application

fees felt daunting to her.

So when she got her financial aid

back and saw she qualified for loans

and grants, a 17-year-old Mischka

jumped at the chance.

Despite receiving the Pell Grant,

Mischka, now 25, still has about

UW–Madison graduate Emerson

Boettcher (right), who has over

$20,000 in student loan debt, worked

between 20 to 40 hours a week during

college to help assauge her concerns

about debt after college.


Our photo

caption would

go here in

Avenir Heavy!!

Wisconsin native Justine Mischka

(left) moved to Washington after her

graduation from UW–Madison for an

AmeriCorps job. She has about $35,000

left in student loan debt and joined

AmeriCorps to help offset her debt

through its grant program.


$35,000 left in debt. She wouldn’t

have done anything differently, but

she wished she knew more when she

said “yes” to loans.

“It’s just like this one button on a

website that you click, and then they

put money in your bank account,”

she says.

Promises and Shortcomings

For Faith, a debt forgiveness policy

must balance precise targeting

and easy implementation. Biden’s

plan, she thinks, accomplished both

of those feats.

Considering people who struggle

the most with debt borrow less than

$10,000, Faith says that number is

addressed by offering relief of up to

$10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients.

The boosted forgiveness of up

to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients

also provides means-based relief.

But debt relief today doesn’t account

for the big-picture problems in

the student loan system — or future

borrowers’ inheritance of it.

“A one-time forgiveness — it is

problematic,” Faith says. “It’s hard

for me to imagine a situation in

which that could happen again.”

Robb says a one-time relief could

also create perverse incentives —

leaving people waiting for more debt

forgiveness or causing them to take

out more loans in hopes of additional

debt cancellation.

For borrowers like Mischka and

Boettcher — who both received Pell

Grants — Biden’s plan would be a

game changer. Mischka would have

her debt at least cut in half.

Under Biden’s plan, Boettcher

would be debt-free. But if it gets axed,

she would have to “rethink teaching

entirely” — whether she could afford

to do what she loves. Despite benefiting

from the forgiveness, Boettcher

recognizes the long-term solution is

not simple. All she has to do is think

about her students to realize that.

“I look at my students now as they

are prepping for college, and while I

have this really amazing blessing, it’s

like kids are still getting themselves

into debt that they don’t know how

to pay off.

“When’s the next solution? Is the

next solution just another big forgiveness?”

Boettcher says. “When

are we going to really get to the economic

part of what’s causing this

trouble in our system?”

What’s Next?

The answer to Boettcher’s question

is, unsurpisingly, complicated.

Faith admits it is not a perfect

analogy, but she asks people to think

about the student debt crisis as a

health care situation.

“We can stop the bleeding, but if

we still have this wound, we need

to figure out better ways to address

emergency care and preventative

care,” she says. “If we can do more

on the front end to be more preventative,

then we can reduce the need

for emergency care.”

For Faith, this means making student

aid more straightforward and

reducing the amount that people

borrow. Medicine number one, Faith

says: increasing the value of the Pell

Grant to help students better cover

college costs.

Robb says making community

college free would pave the way for

people to start at cheaper two-year

schools and transition into higher-cost

institutions later — decreasing

students’ overall debt.

Additional means-based grant

programs could also help minimize

debt. For example, under the recently

implemented Bucky’s Tuition

Promise at UW–Madison, both

Boettcher and Mischka would have

graduated debt-free.

As the nation wrestles with the

best ways to address student debt,

borrowers hold their breath, waiting

for Biden’s promise of relief.

But until her balance is down to

zero, debt will remain on Boettcher’s

mind and in her actions — like picking

out a birthday gift for her 2-yearold


“I’m setting up a college investment

fund for him,” she says with a

chuckle. “I’m not giving him toys.”




The fight for a Homeless Bill of Rights

persists in Wisconsin

By Braden Ross

Ulysses Williams, member of the Madison Wisconsin Homeless Union, is one of the leaders pushing

for a Madison Homeless Bill of Rights.

Ulysses Williams takes a puff

of his cigarette before he

begins to speak.

“I was born and raised in the inner

city of Milwaukee,” he says. “I

left and came here, was middle class

for 27 years, and then I got divorced

and everything went downhill.”

We’re sitting at a picnic table in

front of the house where he’s been

living for the last seven years. But

before this place, Williams was living

on the streets of Madison.

“I was homeless. That was 2011,”

he says. “I stayed homeless for 14

months, got a place and then, like

usual, I lost my job. Back out on

the street again, and that was 15

months out on the streets.”

Williams knows firsthand the

hardships of being unhoused. It

was those experiences that led him

toward working on a solution that

he hopes will make life better for

those who are experiencing homelessness.

It’s an idea that would give

people who already have very little

an extra bump, a step beyond mere

survival to a place where they are

protected and even given a chance

to get ahead.

In May, Williams introduced

a Homeless Bill of Rights to the

City-County Homeless Issues Committee,

a local government body

made up of Dane County supervisors,

Madison alders and people

tied to the area’s homeless community.

The document lists nine rights

he hopes to protect, including the

right to use and move freely in public

spaces, the right to vote, a reasonable

expectation of privacy of

personal property, and the right to

pray, meditate or practice religion

in public spaces, among others.

The idea of a Homeless Bill of

Rights is not unique to Madison or

Williams; it’s something that activists

across the country have championed

for years. In drafting his

own Homeless Bill of Rights, Williams

drew inspiration from legislation

that has been passed in other

cities and states. The proposal was

recommended by the City-County

Homeless Issues Committee and


Williams says it’s under consideration

by the Dane County Board of


“The original goal for a lot of

them was to protect people from

being criminally punished for trying

to survive in public spaces,” says

Eric Tars, legal director at the National

Homelessness Law Center.

In 2012, Rhode Island became

the first state to pass a Homeless

Bill of Rights, followed by Illinois

and Connecticut. Other states like

California and Oregon have passed

more specific homeless rights legislation.

In 2021, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, a

Democrat from Missouri, introduced

the Unhoused Bill of Rights,

the first ever federal resolution for

homeless rights. If passed, the bill

would signify a federal commitment

to solving the issue of homelessness.

Tars says these policies are a step

in the right direction, but many had

most of the stronger protections

stripped out of them during the legislative


Homeless Bills of Rights are designed

to protect people experiencing

homeless from discrimination

based on housing status, something

Williams says is common.

“America unfortunately has

a history of discrimination,” he

says. “Firstly Indians, then African

Americans, then Jewish and Irish.

They do have that history, and right

now, it’s homelessness.”

He says he’s witnessed and experienced

discrimination due to housing

status many times, from seeing

people being denied service at

businesses to being removed from

certain street corners. On one occasion,

Williams says he was handing

out water on State Street when

he saw a police officer clear out an

entire group after seeing one person

drinking alcohol.

“The police officer came up and

of course he poured it out and started

talking to them about, ‘Hey you

guys come down here, you start

fights down here, how about you

guys start moving it out of here?’”

Williams says.

He says he specifically included

No. 8 on the list, the right to engage

in lawful self-employment, because

of discrimination he says he and

others faced while trying to make

some extra cash by collecting and

recycling aluminum cans.

“The city made an ordinance that

you cannot take it out of any trash

containers,” Williams says. “Then

all of a sudden, the recycling places,

you cannot walk up and bring cans.

You gotta be in a car, which, boom,

it’s no longer possible to do.”

The other and perhaps more dire

goal of a Homeless Bills of Rights is

to eliminate the criminalization of

homelessness by getting rid of laws

against illegal camping and panhandling,

among other things. In

Dane County, an average of 13% of

the annual bookings into the Dane

County Jail are people who are presumed

to be homeless.

“We all sleep, we all eat, we all go

to the bathroom, we all enjoy being

able to shelter ourselves when it’s

too hot or too cold outside,” Tars

says. “But those activities that all

of us take for granted can become

criminal acts if they’re done outside

in some places.”

Offenses that begin with a fine

can land someone who can’t afford

to pay them in jail, which then becomes

a barrier to finding housing

and a job. On top of that, jail time

can trigger mental health issues.

“Even long after you might have

been arrested, these fines and fees

can follow you and make it impossible

for you to get housing or stay

housed for potentially years after,”

Tars says.

Pearl Foster, a volunteer, advocate

and member of the Madison

Wisconsin Homeless Union, also

recognizes the harm in criminalization

and says even small steps are


“We need as many things to protect

our homeless population as

we can,” Foster says. “So if that’s a

Homeless Bill of Rights plus homelessness

as a protected class and

any other laws such as overturning

some of the ones that already criminalize

homelessness. We just need it

all out there.”

Advocates agree that these policies

are not working to solve the issue

and hope that a Homeless Bill of

Rights will both provide protections

and push policymakers to rethink

how they approach homelessness.

“The hope is that by creating this

new floor of rights, that the solutions

that communities will turn to

will be actual constructive solutions

that work for everybody, rather

than just allowing public officials to

push the problem out of the public

view for their own convenience,”

Tars says.

Ulysses Williams and

Garrett Olson set up

their Homeless Union

stand at the farmers’

market in Madison to

hand out free coffee

and hot chocolate as a

thank you to those who

sign their petition for

the Madison Homeless

Bill of Rights.



Wisconsin leads the nation into the future of fresh water

By Christy Klein

Originally “Mekonsing” or

“River Running Through a

Red Place” the state is named

for the Wisconsin River that cuts

through the center of our state.

Our wetlands are abundant and

our rivers run deep. Wisconsin holds

more than 15,000 lakes while its rivers

and streams cover more than 84,000

miles of terrain. To the east, Lake

Michigan holds over one quadrillion

gallons of water. Lake Superior’s three

quadrillion gallons — the deepest and

largest of the Great Lakes — sits to

the north, while the Mississippi River

follows the southwestern border.

As climate change, contamination

and population continue to endanger

the global fresh water supply, Wisconsin’s

freshwater becomes increasingly

valuable. Places with fresh

water will flourish as climate change

shifts weather patterns and droughts

become more common.

The state’s forward-thinking, centuries-long

connection to water

has led Wisconsin to emerge as an

unexpected leader in the fight for

survival in the national water crisis.

Leaders across Wisconsin are moving

forward to keep the state at the

forefront of water technology for

decades to come.

Much of that work is happening

in Milwaukee, located on Lake

Michigan at the confluence of three

rivers: the Milwaukee, Menomonee

and Kinnickinnic. “Minwaking,”

the Potawatomi word for “gathering

place by the water,” brought Native

Americans to the area due to its rich

land and location. The city’s proximity

to water drew in water-intensive

industries like brewing, tanneries,

meatpacking and transportation —

all of which drove water innovation

in the 1800s.

Water Drives Innovation

Now, the city is home to more than

150 water-related companies like A.O.

Smith, Badger Meter and Pentair;

The Water Council; and the country’s

only School of Freshwater Sciences at


The Water Council, a nonprofit organization

in downtown Milwaukee,

is dedicated to freshwater innovation

and water stewardship.

In 2009, the same year the organi-


Lakefront Walk

follows along

the shoreline of

Lake Michigan.

Approximately 1.6

million Wisconsin

residents get their

water from the

Great Lakes Basin.


zation incorporated into a nonprofit,

the United Nations designated Milwaukee

a U.N. Global Compact City

— one of 13 cities in the world at the

time selected for its concentration in

a topic related to global health and

development. The Water Council establishes

a network of water industry

go-getters by connecting businesses,

utilities, government and innovators

to bring water users into the future.

“It goes back 150 to 160 years ago,”

says Dean Amhaus, president and

CEO of The Water Council. “The

breweries came in because of the

access to the water, to the rivers, to

the grains and the farms, and those

breweries needed companies to help

them process water ... It really goes

back to producing beer.”

Studying Fresh Water

The UW–Milwaukee School of

Freshwater Sciences found its home

here for a similar reason: Milwaukee’s

long-standing connection to

water. Originally founded in 1966 as

the Center for Great Lakes Studies,

it is the only school in the entire

country dedicated to the study of

fresh water.

“Milwaukee has really been a force

in research for a while and in education

and outreach on the Great Lakes,”

says Rebecca Klaper, interim dean of

the School of Freshwater Sciences.

The School of Freshwater Sciences

has been a source of groundbreaking

research in fresh water. Its program

in Great Lakes Aquaculture research

specializes in urban aquaculture. As agriculture

in the west becomes increasingly

endangered, the development of

urban aquaponics has the potential

to play a significant role in a new and

expanding food revolution.

The school’s Great Lakes Genomics

Center is internationally known

for its expertise in using genomics to

address pollution concerns in fresh

water. Their research consists of measuring

ecosystem health, identifying

invasive species, sequencing coronavirus

strains in wastewater and more.

While Milwaukee has built a reputation

in the water industry, Wisconsin

itself can stand alone as a

giant in fresh water. According to

Todd Ambs, former deputy secretary

at the Wisconsin Department

of Natural Resources, Wisconsin has

1,110 miles of Great Lakes shoreline

and 5.3 million acres of wetlands.

We have enough groundwater that

if it were laid evenly over the state, it

would be 100 feet deep.

Manage The Flow

For Ambs, what sets Wisconsin

apart in water is our ability to manage

it effectively.

“We’ve got some leaders in terms

of how water management is done,”

Ambs says, pointing to the Madison

Metropolitan Sewer Districts, Green

Bay’s wastewater treatment system

and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer

District’s work with both wastewater

and habitat preservation and restoration.

“People that do this work for

a living will look to Milwaukee for

some of the leading technology and

efforts that are underway nationally.”

Ambs led negotiations for the state

as the eight Great Lakes states created

the Great Lakes Compact, which

bars any large-scale water diversions

outside the Great Lakes basin. With

Congress’s approval, former President

George W. Bush signed it into

law in 2008.

Shaili Pfeiffer, staff specialist at the

DNR Bureau of Drinking Water and

Groundwater Water Use Section,

explains the heavy-handed policy as

a means of water management.

“You can’t manage water if you

don’t know what the water is that

you have, and you don’t know who

is using it,” Pfeiffer says. “So you

need to know who’s using it, what

they’re using it for and then how

much they’re using.”

In Wisconsin, however, water protection

policy has been commonplace

throughout its history.

The state enacted the nation’s first

shoreland protection law in 1965

and tackled the issue of pollution

from lawns and farm fields in 1977,

filling a gap in the 1972 Clean Water

Act. In 1983, by achieving secondary

treatment for all wastewater facilities

in the state, Wisconsin was the first

to meet the Clean Water Act’s interim

goal for wastewater standards.

Becoming Water Stewards

To keep waterways clean and accessible,

water stewardship and water

policy are critical. Dedication to free

and public access to waterways is

woven into the state constitution,

declaring that all navigable waters are

“common highways and forever free”

to be held in public trust.

Wisconsin’s reputation for water

innovation and stewardship has

primed the state as a leader in the future

of water. At The Water Council,

the two go hand-in-hand.

Matt Howard, The Water Council’s

vice president for water stewardship,

stewardship means determining

what needs attention, implementing

the technology and then using the

technology purposefully.

“We want to start working with

businesses on the internal operation


... ‘So what are the best practices

for operating a facility?” Howard

says. “Then go out and find the right

technology and right innovations to

help you address those challenges or

opportunities that we’re facing.”

One of the challenges that the

country faces is the water shortage

in the West. As a result of a 20-year

drought the Colorado River is drying

up, putting seven states, 29 federally

recognized tribes and northern Mexico

all at risk of losing drinking water

and electricity.

Howard points to the Colorado River

Compact, an agreement settled

between the seven states and various

tribes regarding water allocation, as the

beginning of the end. While there have

been technology implementations like

smart meters and dams, the American

West has grown overly reliant upon

innovation but ignored stewardship.

“If you don’t marry any of that

with practice, you get yourself in a

situation that they’re in right now,”

Howard says.

There are several movements

stirring in the West in response to

the drought and water scarcity, but

Wisconsin will likely have a hand in

leading the country as a whole into a

freshwater future. With Wisconsin’s

leadership in pioneering water policies

for centuries, The Water Council has

had its eye on the West for some time.

“It’s around the quantity, but it’s

also the quality of water,” Amhaus

says. “So those companies [out West]

have been doing that, and they will

continue to do that as well. And we

see ourselves as a solution provider.”

“People that do this work for a

living will look to Milwaukee for

some of the leading technology

and efforts that are underway




Wisconsin educators speak up about why

they’re leaving the classroom

By Perri Moran

Debra Conway,

a school


at Vel Phillips

Memorial High

School, isn’t

planning on

leaving. But

several of her

colleagues have

considered it.

The day starts for teacher Sally

Watson before the sun rises.

In the dark winters of Wisconsin,

it can be hard to rise before

the sun, but this is what Watson’s

been doing for 24 years. She’s used to

it. She arrives at the high school over

an hour before her students arrive to

get organized for her day.

Watson teaches five classes a day.

The remaining hours of her time at

school are spent adjusting lesson

plans, attending meetings and calling

parents whose kids are struggling.

By the end of the school day,

she’s tired from wrangling ninth

graders, who she often thinks act

more like elementary schoolers

than high schoolers.

She leaves school around 4 p.m.

and spends the next two hours working

from home: planning lessons,

grading, reading and responding

to emails. She spends from 6 p.m.

to 8 p.m. with her young children,

and once they’re in bed, she spends

about two more hours working.

The next morning, the cycle repeats.

She’s thinking about quitting.

Watson, who asked for anonymity

because she’s not allowed to

speak publicly about her role, is not

alone. Teachers across Wisconsin

are in difficult positions and are

faced with hard decisions — they’re

trying to endure and persist in the

profession, but each day, the challenges

seem harder to withstand.

Many have already left their careers

in education behind, contributing

to the growing teacher shortage.

Teachers Support Students,

Who Supports Teachers?

Teachers have always been valued

community members, appreciated

for their role of educating the next

generation. Today, their roles have

expanded, but the respect and support

that was once provided by their

communities has all but vanished.

Thomas Burkhalter, superintendent

of Viroqua Area Schools, has

seen this trend over his time in education.

At one point, teachers were

revered in their communities and

thanked often for their work, Burkhalter

says. Now, he says things

have completely shifted.


Many parents and other community

members feel emboldened

to criticize teachers and teaching

methods. Public school board

meetings often give a platform to

community members who are angry

with teachers.

“Some of the other things that are

said at those meetings are just hurtful,”

says Amy Menzel, who was an

English teacher at Waukesha West

High School. Menzel, along with

many colleagues, left Waukesha

public schools after the 2021-2022

school year. “They say that they demand

respect in those [meetings],

but I don’t see enforcement of that,”

Menzel says.

Many politicians haven’t been

supportive either. For several weeks

in February 2011, thousands of

teachers protested the budget repair

bill at the state Capitol building in

Madison. Act 10 became law not

long after the protests. When Act

10 was passed, teachers and other

public sector employees lost much

of their ability to collectively bargain.

Teachers are still affected by

it today.

Additionally, gerrymandering in

the state has made change nearly

impossible when it comes to electing

politicians who prioritize school

funding, according to Watson.

“​We have not properly funded

public education,” Watson says.

“We’ve kept things static even

though inflation has gone up.”

Teachers, Counselors

and Babysitters

With lack of funding for education

comes lack of resources in

schools. Teachers are often left to

pick up the slack.

At Vel Phillips Memorial High

School in Madison, school psychologist

Debra Conway frequently sees

student needs that require more resources

than the school has to offer.

To her, that’s the biggest challenge

of working in a comprehensive urban

high school.

“It can be a mental health need, it

can be an academic need, it can be a

social-emotional need, it could be a

feeding need, it could be a housing

need, it could be a clothing need,”


Conway says. The lack of resources

doesn’t stop teachers from trying,

though. It can be exhausting, but

many teachers really care — enough

to take work home and continue

trying to meet student needs. Watson

does this almost daily.

“That’s what I’ve been doing for

two years,” Watson says, “and that’s

becoming unsustainable.”

Conway agrees. “It’s hard because

you want to be the be-all-end-all for

“We’re expected to

provide for those

needs and it can be

overwhelming and

hard to do.”

everybody, but you can’t,” she says.

Teachers, like students, are experiencing

their own mental health

crises. Working more than 40 hours

a week in an environment where

teenagers are screaming at you and

throwing things — yes, really, ask

Watson — is draining, and no one

allows teachers the time to recharge.

In fact, teachers say they have less

time than ever these days. The time

they don’t spend with students is

also monopolized by administrative

tasks, such as filling out forms or

creating online lessons.

“My struggle with it is that it’s always

a little more, a little more, a little

more,” Menzel says. “Now we’re

at the point that it’s overwhelming.”

The Autonomy Paradox

While teachers are being given

more responsibilities in their classrooms,

at the same time they are

being stripped of their autonomy.

Not only are books being pulled

from the curriculum and libraries,

but some districts have gone as far

as to require teachers to take down

any signage in their classrooms that

could be deemed “political.”

At Menzel’s former school, staff

were told to remove pride flags from

their walls. According to Menzel,

many teachers took issue with that

request, including herself.

“I think it emboldened students

to say things that were hateful,”

Menzel says. “It put a lot of students’

safety in jeopardy, perceived

or otherwise.”

Even in more progressive districts

like the one in which Watson

works, teachers are seeing a trend

of identity being politicized.

“Books and things being pulled

are often books that deal with issues

of equity, whether it’s LGBTQ+

identity or racial identity or religious

questioning,” Watson says.

Kids are already having these conversations

about race and gender,

and Menzel says it’s her job to help

them do it in more effective ways so

that they feel seen and heard.

“I don’t think we get better at

talking about tough subjects by

not talking about tough subjects,”

Menzel says.

The Solution

What does a community do when

teachers are leaving? The consensus

is simple: Trust teachers again.

It can be hard to trust even a

qualified individual when everyone

feels like they’re an expert.

“I think we’re one of the most

unique fields because everybody

went to school, so everybody thinks

they know how it should be done,”

Burkhalter says.

What the criticism of teachers is

doing, Burkhalter says, is downplaying

the amount of training, effort

and time that professionals in

schools have gone through.

“Districts don’t trust teachers,”

Watson says. “School boards, families,

voters don’t trust teachers.”

Menzel speaks similarly about

trust. “There’s a lack of trust in what

[teachers] have dedicated their lives

for,” Menzel says.

Even Conway, a school psychologist,

says “It’s hard, and it’s real. It’s

hard not to take it personally.”




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Take shelter and find warmth in

Wisconsin’s winter art scene

By Jamie Randall

There’s something about art

that makes you feel warm

and enlightened — even

when it’s 8 degrees below zero.

Art can be viewed from anywhere

by anyone. It propels the human experience

by telling a story in many

forms, leaving us with perspective,

appreciating what we knew before

and what we just learned.

“Art is a wonderful educational

tool that aids in the understanding

of ourselves and the world around

us. Art provides the viewer with new

perspectives on life and new ways

of thinking and seeing. It serves as

a jumping-off point for inspiration

and new ideas. Art enriches and enhances

the soul,” says Avery Pelekoudas,

Warehouse Art Museum programming


Exhibitions around Wisconsin

offer various pieces that can be enjoyed

this winter.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, located

on the north shore of Madison’s

Lake Monona, includes 16 acres

of outdoor display gardens and a

10,000-square-foot conservatory. It

also features year-round art exhibits.

Olbrich’s annual Holiday Express,

Flower & Model Train Show will be

open from Dec. 3 to Dec. 31. The exhibit

is unique as it involves special

designs with plants and a new theme

every year — this year’s embodying

carnival. In addition, the exhibit creates

tradition, welcoming back families

and visitors.

“It’s a great place for anybody

to just get away and relax, whether

it’s from school, work or other life

stresses,” says Missy Jeanne, Olbrich

Gardens’ special projects manager.

“We see familiar faces all the time

of people enjoying [our] classes and

workshops for all ages. Some are

more art based, some are based on

plant biology, it’s just kind of endless,

all the different ways that you

can learn and engage.”

A barber chair with leather and gold

plating on display at the Madison

Museum of Contemporary Art is part

of Faisal Abdu’Allah’s exhibition called

“Dark Matter.”

Madison Museum of

Contemporary Art

The Madison Museum of Contemporary

Art, known as MMoCA and

located in downtown Madison, displays

the work of a variety of artists

and professors from UW-Madison.

MMoCA has an exhibition of pieces

from UW–Madison professor Faisal

Abdu’Allah known as “Dark Matter.”

It portrays cultural representation

and shows Abdu’Allah’s most celebrated


Along with “Dark Matter,” which

will be on exhibit until April 2, 2023,

art by Wendy Red Star, an Apsáalooke

(Crow) contemporary artist,

made its way to the museum on Nov.

12. Red Star’s work offers accounts

of American history that rectify the

frequently flawed narratives about

Native American people.

“It’s really about starting conversations

and having more meaningful

conversations with children that

may not know how to approach the

conversation of the histories that are

missing in our textbooks, but this is

a supplement that will give kids that

moment with their families,” Brungardt


Lake Geneva Winterfest

In the winter, Lake Geneva hosts

the annual Winterfest, which runs

from Feb.1 to Feb. 5.

“[There is] a lot of community

pride in hosting this event,” says

Deanna Goodwin, vice president

of marketing, communications and

development for VISIT Lake Geneva.

“It’s so incredible. The crowds of

people that come here and how happy

everybody is when they’re here.

It’s a lot of work leading up to it, but

it’s fun work.”

For nearly three decades, Lake

Geneva’s Winterfest has hosted the

annual U.S. National Snow Sculpting

Championship. Fifteen teams of

three people from around the U.S.

participate in three days of craft,

where they create 10-foot sculptures

along the lakeshore. After sculpting,

the final result is an art gallery of

lakefront sculptures for the community

to enjoy.

“Winterfest is so larger-than-life

when it happens. And to see so many

smiling faces and kids in awe of how

big these sculptures are because you

get up really close to them,” Goodwin

says. “You’re just within a couple feet

of them actually working and doing

the sculptures. And then when you

see it all said and done in the detail,

in the artwork, it’s just phenomenal.”

Warehouse Art Museum

The Warehouse Art Museum,

called WAM, opened its doors in

2018. Located in a historic warehouse

in the Menomonee Valley, the

mostly woman-run museum showcases

three to five exhibits every year.

The artwork on display is all from

the private collection of the co-owners

and co-directors of WAM, Jan

Serr and John Shannon.

“They have been collecting for

about 40 years or so, and that’s essentially

why they created WAM, was to

display their collection because they

had so much work sitting around,”

says the museum’s programming coordinator

Avery Pelekoudas.

From Jan. 13 to March 31, WAM

will showcase art by Ruth Grotenrath,

a Milwaukee local.

“It’s gonna be super bright, colorful,

fun ... we like to do that for

the harsh gray Wisconsin winters,”

Pelekoudas says. “So having a fun,

colorful show during that time is

always nice. Yeah, that’s one of the

main draws for the exhibition during

the winter.”

Abdu’Allah’s exhibit

portrays different

African American

haircut styles.




Singlestitch brings clothes

from the past to State


By Jake Rome

The difference between authentic

and imitation vintage

clothes depends on one

thing: the stitching.

A single stitch at the hem and

shoulder was the standard up until

the mid to late ’90s, while a double

stitch is the standard of today. It

should be no surprise that Singlestitch

in Madison is the top shop for

authentic looks of the past.

Mitch Hammes, also known as

Single-Stitch Mitch, is the 22-yearold

from a small town right outside

of La Crosse on a mission to redefine

how we shop and dress. Hammes

opened Singlestitch in Madison in

2021, and it already sticks out from

the rest.

Sales and hard work made

Hammes successful, but his passion

for recycled fashion and community

is what has made him Madison’s king

of vintage.

Vintage wear and secondhand

shopping have exploded in the past

10 years.

“Whether it’s skateboard culture,

sports culture or any of that ... it kind

of all just stems from vintage,” says

Joel Bergquist, manager and creative

consultant at August, another State

Street shop.

Another factor in the appeal of

secondhand pieces is their individuality.

Many vintage items or clothing

lines are either discontinued or are

limited-release pieces. To many, this

drastically raises the value of a piece.

This is the background to Hammes’

success. He has been thrifting since

he was a little kid, when his grandma

would take him to garage sales on

Fridays and Saturdays.

Hammes is certainly the guy to

rule over Madison’s vintage-wear

market, but the timing is what made

it work. The market wouldn’t have

been ready for his passion just five

years ago.

After high school, Hammes started

selling clothes at garage sales. He

says he had to “lug probably 800 to

1,000 pieces of clothing up and down

a flight of stairs, plus all the clothing

racks. And it got to the point where I

was like, ‘It was either a storage unit

or a store.”

Hammes chose the store.

A small space in La Crosse, on a

remote street with just a gym next to

it, was home to his very first storefront,

Lax Vintage, which did not

match the ornate, hyper-detailed

layout of Singlestitch.

“When we opened we had plastic

hangers, Walmart clothing racks,”

he says. “Racks would fall down and

break. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all,

but it just worked.”

This is funny because Singlestitch’s

design has incredible attention to

detail. Every inch of the store, floor

to ceiling, is covered in colorful vintage

trinkets, hats, shoes, T-shirts,

jackets, pants, beanies, vinyls, magazines,

VHS tapes, overalls, sweaters,

toys, banners, coats, video games

and more. To a vintage lover, it is an

adult candy shop.

Every rack that lines the walls and

middle of the store is color coded

and organized by garment. Above

every rack is seemingly a collector’s

item from the 1980s to the early

2000s, and just about anything you

see in the store is for sale — if the

price is right.

Hammes’ attention to every detail

and to the curation of a timeless experience

keeps people coming back.

Though Singlestitch is an upgrade

from Lax Vintage, people will go

Mitch Hammes,

owner of the

Madison vintagewear


Singlestitch, sits

atop his throne

of unreleased

inventory. His

neatly organized

basement storage

is home to nearly

double the

amount of items

on display up in

the store.


wherever Hammes is. Grace Paar,

a senior at UW–Madison, is one of

the few who have been to both storefronts.

Even with the plastic hangers

and Walmart racks, Paar says,

“People that were in there were very

trendy ... and I was like, I need to

dress nice to go in there.”

Hammes sets the tone wherever

he is. Instead of creating competition

between other stores in Madison, he

made professional companions. Take

Supra Sneakers, a “hypebeast” store

selling high-end, street footwear just

three doors down from Singlestitch

as an example.

Jason Foss, who runs the store,

says he and Hammes are friendly

with each other and share ideas for

their customers.

“We bounce off each other a lot,”

Foss says. “A lot of times people look

for shoes, [and] whenever they don’t

like some of our shirts, we send them

over there.”

The two even talked about setting

up a side-by-side shop in a new place.

Hammes does not only show

compassion to his competitors, but

his customers as well. His goal is to

break away from the hierarchy of the

producer over the consumer found

in traditional retailer spaces.

“If you’re talking to somebody else

who’s behind a counter, they will always

be up on a podium,” Hammes

says. But, “when you can sit down

with somebody on the same couch

and talk ... it’s totally different.”

This philosophy goes into

Hammes’ plans for future expansion.

Singlestitch is closing a deal on a second

shop in La Crosse and Hammes

hopes to upsize his Madison location.

While expansion is necessary

for Hammes’ incredible amount of

inventory, he also wants to do it in

order to provide a comfortable space

for the community.

Another feature that would accompany

expansion would be a space for

styling, which interests Hammes.

“Once I get to realize what people

are collecting, what people are into,

then I can kind of like go out and

purchase items for them that I probably

normally wouldn’t have picked

up,” Hammes says.

Hammes and Singlestitch are already

thriving after just one year,

and it seems the passion and care

he feeds into his business will only

make this success more sustainable.

His work is for the community, just

as much as it is inspired by it.

“That’s why I do this, still, to this

day. I do this to see other people,”

Hammes says. “That’s probably

my style ... It’s just stuff that I see

throughout the day, it’s just seeing

how people dress and trying to put

my own twist on it.”




By Brooke Messaye

Being from California and choosing to come across the country to Wisconsin for college means I am constantly

being questioned about why I chose UW–Madison. After spending the last three and a half years in

Wisconsin, I have fallen in love with this state and proudly respond to all the typical questions.


“What’s in Wisconsin?”

When I first thought of Wisconsin, I can admit my mind went to the typical country view of an expansive field with a

red barn, like what you see on the side of a milk carton. While there is plenty of that, Wisconsin is so much more. With

Madison’s four major lakes and a vast number of state parks, such as Devil’s Lake, the views are amazing. The Wisconsin

Dells is also the “Water Park Capital of the World.” And let’s not forget that Milwaukee is a huge city with tons of

opportunities and experiences at the tip of your fingers.

“You must love cheese.”

Yes, yes I do, and being in the cheese state has both expanded my cheese palate and provided me opportunities to do

some really cool things, like milk a cow at Hinchley’s Dairy Farm. After living in Wisconsin, my favorite food is now

fried cheese curds. That’s something anyone who visits must try. I am a proud cheesehead — and yes, I do own that

cheese hat.

“UW–Madison, you must be a partier.”

Ranked as one of the top five party schools, I can admit that UW–Madison students definitely “get lit,” but they also

know how to pick themselves up and show out in the classroom. Drinking is a part of the culture in Wisconsin, so of

course that carries over to the university. But just as we rank well on the party scale, we also rank well academically as

the No. 10 public school in the nation, according to U.S. News.

“Go Bucks/Packers!”

As a huge sports fan, Wisconsin sports always hype me up. With the recent success of the Bucks as the 2021 NBA

champions, the notoriety of the Packers with the most NFL championships in the league and the Badgers as a POWER-

HOUSE for college volleyball, it is no surprise that people who may not know much about

Wisconsin immediately think about sports.



Wisconsin remains

inseparable from

its dark past

By Robin Robinson


My first encounter with

race was at the age of six

years old while attending

elementary school in the Milwaukee

Public Schools system.

Sitting in my kindergarten classroom,

I watched a group of girls

rush towards a pile of dolls during

playtime. After all the dolls were

taken and the only Black doll was

left in the corner, I walked over to

grab the doll and asked one of the

girls if I could play.

She said no; that the Black doll

was on timeout because she was being

bad just like me. The only thing

was, I had never been on timeout

before, and I was not bad.

The pulse of Wisconsin is traced

with the controversial history of race

relations that have been skewed by

the lack of documentation and misinformation

across the state. Black

Wisconsinites have been at the forefront

of racial injustice, segregation

and voting discrimination since the

mid-1800s and continue to address

these matters through resistance.

To really understand this past

and how it will affect our future, I

set out to find where the pulse of

history in Wisconsin for marginalized

individuals truly comes from.

My journey began at the Wisconsin

Historical Society in an interview

with Lee Grady, the senior reference


Grady’s work in the archives includes

providing access to legislative

papers, photographs, business

documents and personal, government

and public records from people

with local to elite status that

dates back to when the state was

established in 1848.

“We’ve tended to do a better job

of documenting underrepresented

communities and people of color,

and it’s been better and better as

time goes on, but we were not very

good at it for the first 120 years of

our history as an organization,”

Grady says.

Over its nearly 175 years, Wisconsin

history has been told from a

narrow white male perspective.

“Most of the records are the perspectives

of missionaries of government

officials, French fur traders

and not from Indigenous peoples

themselves,” Grady says.

Grady shared the story of Ezekiel

Gillespie, an African American man

who attempted to register to vote in

Milwaukee in 1865 and was denied

the right to vote by county officials.

He challenged the courts under the

provisions of the constitution and

won a state Supreme Court case allowing

Black men in Wisconsin to

vote in 1866.

Sifting and Reckoning

UW–Madison’s Public History

Project opened its exhibit “Sifting

& Reckoning: UW–Madison’s History

of Exclusion and Resistance”

on Sept. 12, 2022, at the Chazen

Museum of Art.

The exhibition recognizes generations

of students at UW–Madison


who have been involved in movements

on campus and addresses the

university’s history of racism and

exclusion of its minority students.

Kacie Lucchini Butcher, the director

of the Public History Project,

explains how engaging with the

university’s history impacts her and

everyone residing in Wisconsin.

“It’s gonna be really important

for us as a university and a campus

community to think not only about

the role that these histories play in

Wisconsin, but really in our community,

where we live, how we’re

going to make sure that we don’t

repeat these histories in the future,”

Lucchini Butcher says.

The exhibition spans over 175

years of history in Wisconsin and

highlights hundreds of stories of

struggle and resistance at the university

and in the Madison community.

Through archival material,

photos and oral histories, the exhibit

showcases what students of color

have been going through at the university

from the past to the present.

Standing in the exhibition surrounded

by the university’s dark

past of discrimination and racism, I

felt displaced in my identity of what

it truly meant to be a Badger.

As my peers gathered around the

exhibit, exposure of generations of

injustice in UW Housing, athletics,

Greek life and student engagement

reflected years of students at odds

with the university and its policies.

“Madison believes itself to be the

mecca of Wisconsin, in that the folk

in Madison think they’re so woke

and so educated and they know everything

there is to know about racism,

but I think this will show them

that they have a lot more learning

to do,” says Grace Ruo, a native of

St. Louis and First Wave Scholar at


Discovery in Milwaukee

The next stop on my hometown

and discovery tour was Milwaukee

— one of the most segregated metro

areas in the United States in 2022

and my hometown.

As a result of redlining and housing

discrimination residents live in

separate sides of the city divided by


race, class and violence hazard.

My grandmother Geraldine Nevels,

a Milwaukee native since 1967,

moved to the city during the Great

Migration. She was the first person I

spoke with about her entrance into

what many call “old Milwaukee.”

“My first encounter coming to

Milwaukee was the riots in 1967. So

I was terrified. I got on the Greyhound

bus,” Nevels says. “So I got

as far as Chicago, and they wouldn’t

let me go any further because they

were under martial law at that time.”

On July 30, 1967, violence erupted

around the country, including

the Milwaukee riots in response

“I see women

and men who

go against the

grain, who are not

acceptors of racism

and fight to make a


to restrictive housing laws and unequal


Milwaukee’s history of voting

prevention, segregation tactics and

control management have caused

the resistance of Black Wisconsinites.

An example of resistance can

be seen through the investments

made by many members of the

community for the development of

fair and equal housing.

Clayborn Benson, a historian and

the executive director of the Wisconsin

Black Historical Society, explained

how Bernice Lindsay, Ardie

Clark Halyard and Vel Phillips led

initiatives to challenge the housing

discrimination faced by Black Milwaukee


Benson recalls the story of the

miscalculation of the referendum

vote that denied African Americans

the right to vote in Wisconsin.

“They cheated on the calculation

of the 1849 vote,” Benson says. “We

had the right to vote from 1849 to

when the Supreme Court said you

can vote in 1866.”

After over a decade of being denied

suffrage as a result of what

historians argue was an intentional

miscalculation of votes from state

legislative officials, African Americans

living in Wisconsin officially

received the right to vote in 1866.

Today, not much has changed in

Milwaukee. According to members

of the community, residents of the

city are still facing housing discrimination,

voting prevention, redlining

tactics and segregation from the

neighboring areas.

“I don’t need to tell you that we’re

still living in this segregation bubble

right now,” Benson says. “Go

outside and look at the neighborhoods.

Look at the buildings, look

at housing, and you can go to the

white community like Shorewood

... Look at those communities and

look at development and growth.

You can see the difference.”

The disenfranchisement of African

Americans across the state

of Wisconsin has led to the unfair

treatment of residents.

“I see women and men who go

against the grain, who are not acceptors

of racism and fight to make

a difference. People who don’t accept

‘no,’ who rise above that curtain

of racism and make a difference

in our community,” Benson says.

By the end of this journey, I found

that without the people who are

dedicated to making a difference

in their communities, Black voices

and history in Wisconsin would be

silenced forever.

The pulse of this state has been

deeply aligned with the fight and

resistance of Wisconsin’s dark past

of exclusion by the marginalized

groups of people of color across the

entire state.


Things I saw traveling across Wisconsin

Photography by Perri Moran




#4 #5 #6

1. Family Farm, near Darien. Nov. 4, 2022. 2. Abandoned Firework Stand, Albion. Nov. 16, 2022. 3. Abandoned Farmhouse, near


Emerald Grove. Nov. 16, 2022. 4. Antique Store, Emerald Grove. Nov. 16, 2022. 5. Abandoned Barn, near Emerald Grove. Nov. 16, 2022.

6. Tana’s Family Restaurant, Delavan. Nov. 4, 2022. 7. Hay Bales, near Emerald Grove. Nov. 16, 2022.


Even as one of the best places in the nation to raise a family,

Wisconsin still has ground to cover

By Brooke Messaye

Houses similar in architecture

line the streets like a

town straight out of a dystopian

novel. The smells of a fresh

meal fill every crevice of the houses

as the chatter and laughter from

family, friends and neighbors echo

from wall to wall. Cars parked in the

driveways gather dust, as bikes are

sprawled across the front yard.

As you drive through Madison’s

Marshall Park neighborhood, three

minutes away from the house-lined

street is a park with a view from the

swings that overlook the water as the

sun sets and the orange-yellow rays

disappear into the distance. Across

town in the Greenbush neighborhood,

an elementary school is just

blocks from a hospital.

Without having to leave the comforts

of your neighborhood, it all

seems right at your fingertips.

This is Madison, Wisconsin.

Madison is the Best – Officially

In 2022, WalletHub ranked Madison

the ninth best city to raise a family

in the U.S., based on the criteria of

cost of family fun, health and safety,

education and child care, affordability

and socioeconomics.

But seeing how Madison measures

up reveals some hard truths about

the community. In areas where studies

are more likely to reveal gaps depending

on race and socioeconomic

status, such as the quality of education,

affordability of child care and

underemployment, Madison didn’t

fare as well.

Milwaukee sees a similar pattern

when it comes to measuring the

quality of life, and it adds up to a

Wisconsin paradox: While the state

may be a great place for some families,

others, especially those who are

Black, see real differences in how life

is lived here.

Really, there are two Wisconsins.

This idea stems from the work of

Sue Robinson, School of Journalism

and Mass Communication professor

at UW–Madison. Robinson wrote

a book in 2018 called “Networked

News, Racial Divides: How Power

and Privilege Shape Public Discourse

in Progressive Communities.”

In this book, she discussed the

idea of “two Madisons.” While she

raises her family in a neighborhood

where there are a plethora of resources,

Robinson recognizes her whiteness

and privilege and acknowledges

that just a few blocks away, the situation

may look different.

“There is another Madison, and in

this one, all of these metrics that are

so rosy for people who have white

skin instead show huge disparities

for Black and Brown people because

of basic opportunity debts, because

these systems were not built for them

to succeed — from graduation rates

to the school-to-prison pipeline to

access to affordable health care to

well-paying jobs,” Robinson says.

The Schools and the Views

Michelle Hellrood has spent her

entire life living in Madison, so

choosing to raise her two kids here

was a no-brainer.

“I love the Madison community

and everything it has to offer ... from

... the Geology Museum and [the]

Chazen and just walking around

campus,” Hellrood says.

Madison’s activities and school

systems were a draw for Hellrood

and her husband. Working in child

care, she recognizes the lack of

high-quality services, but as kids enter

the school system, it improves.



“There is another Madison, and in this one, all

of these metrics that are so rosy for people

who have white skin instead show huge

disparities for Black and Brown people because

of basic opportunity debts, because these

systems were not built for them to succeed.”


“I am a product of the Madison

Metropolitan School District and

UW–Madison, both my kids are,”

Hellrood says. “I was super happy

with my children’s experiences in

both elementary, middle and high

school here.”

Darcy Burke, mother of three girls

and lifelong Wisconsin resident,

feels the same way about education

in Madison.

“I would say our kids did really,

really well with all of their opportunities

in Madison schools,” Burke

says. “I would say that we had really

positive educational experiences

learning-wise and enjoyment-wise.”

Burke’s fondest childhood memories

stem from her summer days at

the Memorial Union Terrace with

her sister and family, and a large reason

why she chose to raise her family

in Wisconsin is because of the proximity

to her family.

“Having that community that

I know and grew up with here in

Wisconsin just sort of lent itself to

bringing our kids up in Wisconsin

and having that community neighborhood,”

she says.

But Not For Everyone

Jada Young, a 21-year-old Black

UW–Madison student from Milwaukee,

looks back at her childhood and

says she would “absolutely never”

raise a child in Wisconsin.

“There are the high rates of segregation

in Milwaukee, and there are a

lot of issues [there] that affect Black

people,” Young says. “I would not

want to raise Black children in an

environment where they don’t have

the resources to succeed.”

When she thinks back on her

childhood, the memory that always

comes up is the look of fear in her

sister’s eyes as they dove to lay on the

floor to hide from gunshots outside

of their duplex.

“They have a large amount of

gun violence days in Milwaukee and

plenty of other issues that I had to

endure, and it would make me a terrible

parent to make my kids live it as

well,” she says.

Marcellus Lawrence, a 20-yearold

Black UW–Madison student

who grew up in Milwaukee, echoed

Young’s feelings of not wanting to

raise a family in a city with such a

prominent racial divide and segregation,

even going so far as to refer to

his hometown as “Killwaukee.”

In order for him to live a shielded

life at a young age and to academically

thrive, his parents had to outsource

his education.

“I felt like my worldview was always

protected, so I never got a really

accurate representation of what

it was like early on,” Lawrence says.

“After attending private and Catholic

schools, in some sense I was

removed from the ins and outs of

what was happening on the street,

but I then went to school in a public

setting during high school and I got

to see like what the world was really

like from a totally different standpoint,

and that is a community that I

just wouldn’t put kids in.”



He spent 17 years behind bars — now, he’s determined to help

those still inside prepare for release

By Erin McGroarty

Shannon Ross is

executive director

of the Milwaukeebased


The Community,

which focuses

on providing

information and

resources to those

in prison and

about to leave

incarceration. Ross

spent 17 years

in prison and

was released in

September 2020.

Some say time freezes when you

go to prison. That the age you

are when you go in lingers in a

way when you get out.

Those close to Shannon Ross describe

him as possessing the wisdom

of an old man, but the drive of a


That was the age Ross was when

he began a 17-year prison sentence

for a homicide conviction.

While inside, Ross read piles of

books, completed his undergraduate

degree in business administration

and began a newsletter for other incarcerated

people that would later

become the successful reentry nonprofit

he runs today.

“My time in prison was just a lot of

focusing on my future and staying in

society,” Ross says.

Ross’ determination was born of a

resilience and passion he describes

as core to his personality as a whole;

a “natural personality” for which he

credits his family.

The smooth reentry Ross experienced

is not the case for many leaving

the prison system, and society’s

narrative of negativity and fear surrounding

formerly incarcerated people

only adds to the barriers they face

upon reentry.

Ross was released from prison just

over two years ago. Now, he’s pushing

for the change he sees as vital in

the ways society responds to people

with criminal records.

Origins and Belonging

Ross grew up in a part of North

Milwaukee he jokingly describes

as “hood adjacent.” On the corner

block of North and 47th, he remembers

a good childhood, as the only

child in a loving family.

But, coming from a biracial background

and growing up in a largely

Black neighborhood, Ross recalls

getting made fun of a lot as a child.

“When I shave and I don’t have

any facial hair, I look very young.

And so especially when I was younger,

and that was the case, I would get

a lot of comments about being gay

and a lot of jokes about that,” Ross

says. “Growing up in the neighborhood

where I already was very fair

skinned, I would get the white comments

and the gay comments in a

Black neighborhood, in a very hyper-masculine


The bullying contributed to Ross

feeling a lack of belonging.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really felt

a sense of belonging anywhere, but

I’m very happy about that now because

it allows me to belong everywhere,”

he says.

Ross was imprisoned at nine different

facilities across the Wisconsin

Correctional System throughout his

17-year sentence.

The first six years, he was incarcerated

at Dodge Correctional Institution

in Waupun, about an hour from

Milwaukee and still close enough for

family to visit. Ross saw his parents

nearly every week during this time.

He was later transferred to Stanley

Correctional Institution in Chippewa

County. This prison was much

further away, and his parents weren’t

able to travel the 250 miles more

than once a year.

At that point, Ross had fostered a

bond with his parents that could last

the mileage and saw the time as a

chance to focus on his goals.

Laser Focus

While at Stanley, Ross completed

distance education courses from

UW–Platteville, which his cellmate,

Jeremy Taylor, told him about.

These courses contributed to Ross

earning his undergraduate degree

from Adams State University while

incarcerated at Oakhill Correctional

Institution in 2017.

“He was driven and focused in all

aspects of his life, even sports,” Taylor

says. “Which is one of the reasons

why I think we got along so well, because

we understood each other.”

Taylor, also originally from Milwaukee,

now runs a machine shop in

Florida — a dream he built while in

prison alongside Ross.

When the two weren’t doing

schoolwork or playing basketball together,

they were making plans for

what they would accomplish upon

their release.

“He had plans that he would

bounce off me with regard to The

Community, and I’d bounce ideas off

of him,” Taylor says.




of formerly


people experience


compared to the

2020 COVID-19

unemployment peak of

nearly 15% among the

general public.


of formerly


people experience

homelessness. This

rate is 10 times that of

the general public.


of formerly

incarcerated people do

not have a high school

diploma or GED.


The Correcting the

Narrative campaign,

launched after Ross

was released from

prison in 2020, is

made up of a series

of video interviews

with formerly

incarcerated people

who share stories of

success and resilience

after release.

The Community

Ross began The Community —

now a successful nonprofit aimed at

easing the reentry process and providing

resources for those recently

released from prison — as a newsletter

while he was still in prison.

He wanted a way to share information

he was gathering on reentry

with other incarcerated people.

“People were confused about a lot

of myths that exist in prison,” Ross

says. “I would readily go out of my

way to share resources and get information

for people. It just seemed like

a natural progression.”

The first issue was shared in December

2014 with the help of Ross’

mother, who previously worked in

the newspaper world, along with a

man Ross had met in prison who has

since been released, was working in

a copy shop, and could help with design

and printing.

Ross produced the newsletter from

within prison for six more years prior

to his release. The two-year anniversary

of his release from prison fell

the day after we spoke.

When Ross was released in September

2020, the newsletter had

8,000 readers. It is now widely read

across the Wisconsin Prison System

and accessed by thousands of other

incarcerated people across the country,

Ross says.


Correcting the Narrative

Another important aspect of Ross’

work and The Community centers

around a campaign called Correcting

the Narrative, made up of a series of

video interviews with formerly incarcerated

people sharing their stories of

triumph, struggle and success.

“It’s simply showcasing the successes,

humanity and agency of people

with criminal records, to focus

on that storytelling so people with

records can know their own empowerment,”

Ross says. “But also for

people that don’t understand this

demographic, so that they can then

also have a different view – a more

accurate view – of this demographic.

So the whole story, the correct story,

is known.”

Kaleigh Atkinson does the film

work for the campaign. Atkinson

met Ross about six months after his

release while she was producing a

podcast with her partner who was

incarcerated in the state of Oregon.

Atkinson remembers feeling an instant

connecting with Ross.

“I think it’s imperative what he’s

doing,” Atkinson says.

Atkinson began this work while

her partner was still incarcerated,

and she described the sense of community

she felt finding other people

who had been impacted, personally

or vicariously, by incarceration.

A Wasteful System

Ross has dedicated his life to helping

those who are still in prison prepare

for the day they get out. This

work is crucial in Ross’ mind, particularly

because, as he sees it, the prison

system itself only widens the gap

between those incarcerated and the

rest of society.

“It’s made people rich who are already

rich. It has made individuals

that are in different parts of society

and are already separated by things

like class and race and religion even

more separated,” Ross says.

The system, as it is currently run,

preys on a thirst for punishment of

those who have wronged us that is

inherent to human nature. That isn’t

a solution, though, Ross says.

For Ross, bringing about meaningful

change in the way incarceration

is approached in this country

will have to come from within.

“The system is absolutely a failure

in pretty much every single way

you can think of, but it also is very

logical and human in the way it was

developed and why it continues to

exist,” Ross says. “And we need to acknowledge

that if we’re really going

to address it instead of just thinking

that it’s some evil people out there

that are running it, because it’s us.

It’s not other people that are running

the system.”




Wisconsin chefs create innovative

offerings for plant-based diets

By Zehra Topbas

Crab cakes made from hearts

of palm and chickpeas. A

succulent “turkey” roulade

made from seitan and soy. A banh mi

inspired sandwich with lemongrass

ginger grilled tofu.

These are a few of the ways chefs

in Wisconsin have created delectable

vegan, vegetarian and plant-based

dishes that live up to their more “traditional”


While we have long accepted the

notion that the energy we need to

survive must be acquired through

something with a heartbeat — cheese

from cows or eggs from chickens,

for example, chefs and individuals

have begun to push back. There are

so many alternatives without a pulse

that give us the nutrients and protein

we need to move forward.

Even in a state known for being

one of the nation’s leading dairy

producers, Wisconsin has grown in

its number of plant-based and vegan

restaurants. While some people

choose to make the transition to a

plant-based diet due to ethical concerns,

others make the switch for

health concerns.

Through innovative techniques

and unlikely combinations, chefs

across the state prove that a plantbased

diet doesn’t have to be boring.

From the Source

Arielle Hawthorne felt alone and

isolated when she first took the dive

in a plant-based diet. In her journey

to be more intentional about the

food she was putting in her body, she

discovered the difficulty of finding

places that catered to her diet.

“What I noticed was there were

not a lot of options for people who

don’t eat meat and dairy when you

are out and about,” Hawthorne says.

In 2019, Hawthorne decided to

start a food truck that would eventually

grow to become what is now

Twisted Plants, a full-fledged, plantbased

restaurant located on the East

Side of Milwaukee and in Cudahy, a

suburb of Milwaukee.

“It was really important for my

food to still be flavorful,” she says.

Jordan Short has worked as a chef

for 28 years and has been an executive

chef for 16 of those years. In his

almost eight years as executive chef

and two years as general manager

at Cafe Manna in Brookfield, a Milwaukee

suburb, one thing has kept

him constantly inspired: tradition.

“When I go into creating menu

items or specialties ... I know what

sells,” Short says. “Just real typical

items. I just make them vegan.”

Carrie Richardson from Heartland

Farm Sanctuary in the Madison

suburb of Verona began her journey

toward a plant-based diet early on.

“Living plant-based was an ethical

choice,” she says. “I valued animal

life, and I realized I had a choice in

whether or not to contribute to animal

suffering in this way.”

The Choice to Change

While ethics and principle are a

concern for some, others turn to veganism

for health reasons.

Hawthorne gave up meat in 2017

and dairy in 2018 when she learned

that much of what she ate increased

her chances of health complications.

“Upon doing some research [and]

watching a few documentaries, I discovered

that a lot of what I was eating

was not good for my body, and

it was increasing my chances for diseases,

such as heart disease and diabetes,”

Hawthorne says.

Robin Kasch, the founder and

owner of Cafe Manna, struggled with

health issues and opened the cafe in

hopes of helping others in the area

with similar problems. She wanted

to provide a food establishment that

would be free of potentially harmful


Kanwal Singh has always struggled

with gluten intolerance, and the

Kitchari — a mixture of rice, lentils

and curry leaves tossed together in

Indian spices to make a warm soup

— at Bombay Sweets is one of her goto


“It’s a blend of protein and carbs

together and that makes it a healthy

option,” she says. “You don’t feel any

bloating. It’s very easy to digest.”

But it’s all about balance — and

Richardson would have to agree.

“It’s not so much about physical

health for me. It’s completely possible

to eat an unhealthy plant-based

diet,” she says. “I guess the biggest

difference for me is feeling that my

lifestyle and food choices became

something bigger. I made this decision

on a personal level and found

myself part of a movement.”

Green Owl Cafe

in Madison is one

of many plantbased


throughout the state

that seeks to support

the growing number

of Wisconsinites

adopting primarily

plant-based diets.



Two cows at Hinchley’s Dairy Farm

stand alongside each other. To farmer

Tina Hinchley, these cows are more

than just animals — they’re family.


Wisconsin is home to 64,000 farms, but it’s

more than just America’s Dairyland. Novel

technologies and sustainable developments

allow the state’s farms to cultivate family

and community alongside their yields. Pulse

dives into the past, present and future of

agriculture across the state.

Cranberry bogs

are flooded during

harvest season to

help farmers like

Rochelle Biegel

Hoffman, (right)

a fifth-generation

cranberry farmer

and owner of

Rooted In Red, pick

the berries more



Wisconsin cranberry growers follow in

their families’ footsteps

By Charlie Hildebrand

Amber Bristow remembers

the moment she decided to

work on her family’s cranberry


With a degree in sports management

and a job working for a minor

league baseball team in Iowa, Bristow

thought she knew the career

path she wanted to take. But every

time she left her family’s cranberry

farm in Warrens — a village in the

western part of Wisconsin — to drive

back to Iowa, Bristow would break

down in tears.

Something about her family’s operation

kept drawing her back.

“Why am I doing this? Why am I

putting myself through this when I

could just stay here and not have to

cry every time I go back?” Bristow

recalls asking herself years ago.

At this pivotal life moment, Bristow

decided to return to her roots.

For nearly five years now, Bristow

has worked alongside her family as

a fifth-generation cranberry grower.

Bristow’s decision to follow in her

family’s footsteps is not unusual in

Wisconsin’s cranberry industry. Wisconsin

is home to numerous multigenerational

cranberry farms, some

of which are more than 120 years

old. Despite being overshadowed by

other industries in the agricultural

sectors, these multigenerational

cranberry growers continue to blossom

year after year.

The Harvesting Process

Wisconsin is the leading producer

of the country’s cranberries, having

surpassed its main competitor, Massachusetts,

nearly three decades ago.

The industry produces more than

60% of the country’s cranberries annually.

Tom Lochner, the executive

director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry

Growers Association, believes

the industry’s success is tied to the

state’s Indigenous history of harvesting


“They used them for food, they

used them for dye, they believed

they had medicinal qualities that

they could use them for. They used

them as trade items,” Lochner says.

“They grew here in the wild, and

they evolved over eons to the climate

in Wisconsin and to the environment

that cranberries grow in.”

Cranberries grow on low shrubs

and vines and are perennial crops,

meaning they have a lifespan longer

than two years. Amaya Atucha,

an associate professor at UW–Madison’s

Department of Horticulture

and a fruit crop extension specialist

with the UW–Madison Division of

Extension, says cranberry plants are

often over 100 years old.

“That’s very different from other

crops that we grow here in Wisconsin,

like corn. You plant [corn] every

year, it germinates, you harvest it

and the plant dies,” Atucha says.

Cranberry vines break out of their

dormancy period in the spring when

temperatures rise. The vines typically

bloom in June, signaling bees

to begin pollination. The berries

grow throughout the summer and

are ready to be harvested when they

turn red.

Atucha says the change in color is

caused by dropping temperatures —

the only indication that harvest season

is beginning.

“What is really important for

cranberry production is the color of

the berries, because most of the fruit

is going to go for processing,” Atucha

says. “They have to be completely

red because that is what the consumer


Cranberry vines are submerged in

water, where equipment removes the

berries from their vines. Once the

berries are detached, growers use a

pump to lift them out of the water.

The berries are then transported to

receiving stations and are typically

turned into cranberry juice, dried

cranberries or health supplements.

Why Family Farms Persist

Lochner believes that Wisconsin’s

cranberry growing success is in part

due to the state’s existing agriculture

industry. The state already maintains

the infrastructure and the expertise

to grow crops, which is reflected in

the abundance of multigenerational

cranberry farms.

Rochelle Biegel Hoffman, a

fifth-generation cranberry grower,

believes the state’s sandy glacial deposits

created the perfect natural

ecology for native and agricultural

cranberry cultivation.

“You can’t just grow a cranberry

farm anywhere,” Hoffman says. “You

have to have the right soil, you have

to have access to water. There are

a lot of variables that have to be in

place before a cranberry farm can

successfully grow.”

Hoffman says there “hasn’t been

an overabundance or an underabundance

of cranberry farms,” an aspect

she believes has contributed to farms

being successfully passed on from

generation to generation.

Hoffman now owns Rooted In

Red, her family’s farm in Wisconsin

“You can’t just grow

a cranberry farm


Rapids in the central part of the state.

She says her family’s history in the

industry started as an accident.

Around the turn of the 20th century,

Hoffman’s great-grandfather

Charles Dempze began growing

cranberries as a farmhand when he

was 12. Dempze worked his way up

to become the farm’s manager before

owning it entirely. Dempze’s son,

Gordon, began managing a second

cranberry farm, Dempze Cranberry

Co., when he returned from World

War II. Today, Rooted in Red rests

on the land that is Gordon’s legacy.

“It provides a really great life to

grow up on and is a special, very

generational style industry, which

is kind of unique,” Hoffman says.

“When it comes to farming, there is

a lot of farming that is generational,

but cranberry is a particularly generational


Bristow’s farm — Russell Rezin

& Son — was founded by her greatgreat-great-grandfather

in 1918. Bristow’s

father married into the family

business and, despite having no

farming experience, learned how to

grow cranberries solely by working

alongside family members.



“You can’t really go to school to

learn how to grow cranberries. It’s

secondhand learning. You’re learning

from others and learning as you

go along the way,” Bristow says.

Despite working on the farm as a

child, Bristow’s parents did not pressure

her to stay after high school and

encouraged her to find her own path.

It took going to college and working

other jobs for Bristow to return to

the farm.

“It’s truly a crop that, once you get

to know and understand it, it’s just so

fascinating that it’s hard to be pulled

away from,” Bristow says.

Looking Into the Future

Although Wisconsin’s cranberry

farms are rooted deeply in tradition,

growers are making room for innovation.

Collaboration between growers

and UW–Madison researchers

allows farms to maximize the efficiency

and sustainability of their

harvests. Atucha works with the Wisconsin

State Cranberry Growers Association

to determine what aspects

of harvesting need to be researched.

Hoffman recognizes how valuable

the researchers are when it comes to

developing methods to sustainably

grow crops. The collaboration allowed

Hoffman to implement precision

farming, a method to produce

more cranberries with a smaller

footprint. Rooted In Red recently

started using sensors on the farm to

determine whether irrigation is necessary

on a given day, allowing the

farm to conserve water.

By pursuing a doctoral degree in

education sustainability, Hoffman

hopes to learn how to improve the

sustainability of cranberry production

throughout the industry.

Hoffman is already making

plans for her children to become

sixth-generation cranberry growers.

Rooted In Red’s family ownership

allowed her kids to become involved

at a young age: her 11- and 12-yearold

daughters participate in the farm

and help horticulture scientists perform

nutrient and pest assessments

in the summer.

“My goal as a parent is to keep the

business as healthy as it possibly can

be,” Hoffman says. “So if my kids decide

and choose that they would like

to be cranberry farmers in the future,

they are able to do that.”

Rooted in Red: Generation by Generation

Generations One & Two

Charles Dempze (left)

and son Gordon


Generations Two & Three

Gordon Dempze (middle)

and sons Jim (left)

and Gary (right)

Generations Three & Four

Jim Dempze and family,

including daughter

Jamie Biegel (right)

Generations Four & Five

Jamie Biegel’s family,

including daughter Rochelle

Biegel Hoffman (middle)




One small dairy farm persists despite


By Nicole Herzog

Hinchley’s Dairy

Farm’s milk is sent

to Salisbury Creamery

and to the Kraft

plant in Beaver Dam

to make Philadelphia

cream cheese.

Stashed away in a quaint barn

on Hinchley’s Dairy Farm,

Tina Hinchley collects dozens

of maps. From national maps to ones

that solely feature the state of Wisconsin,

each colorful diagram is littered

with markings. Notes in black

Sharpie point to the hometowns of

the hundreds of people who have

traveled from all over the U.S. to visit

the family-owned dairy farm located

in Cambridge.

The number of markings becomes

noticeably smaller after 2020. The

onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

forced the Hinchley family to rethink

the operations of their business,

located about 25 minutes east

of downtown Madison.

“When COVID hit, all of that

stopped, just like with everybody

else,” Hinchley says. “It’s scary not

being able to pay your bills and not

knowing what COVID was going to

bring with having no school reservations

and everybody isolated.”

COVID-19 is the latest in a series

of challenges to Wisconsin’s dairy industry,

once the state’s lifeblood but

now threatened by worker shortages

and high production costs. To make

ends meet, the current generation of

dairy farmers consistently updates

technology and diversifies their

services to keep their smaller-sized

farms alive for future generations.

Changes to the Industry

The inability to host farm tours

is not the only issue that has affected

dairy farms in recent years. For

farms of all sizes, other factors, such

as a widespread labor shortage and

the overall cost of dairy production,

causes challenges for farmers,

according to Mark Stephenson, the

director of dairy policy analysis at


When Hinchley’s husband began

farming in the 1980s, milk was

priced at $18 per 100 weight (or

11.6 gallons of milk), she says. In

2020, the Hinchleys’ milk was priced

at $9.40 — or half the price for the

same amount of milk. Hinchley says

the family had to dispose of 25% of

their milk during the pandemic.

“So at that time, it was very stressful

on all of us because, you know,

we’ve got all these cows,” Hinchley

says. “They’re producing all this

milk. Eventually, what we ended up

doing is selling some cows, because

it’s just heart-wrenching to see your

hard work go down the drain.”

The labor shortage left many larger-sized

farms with fewer employees,

Stephenson says. Among smaller-sized

farms, challenges related to

workers leaving to pursue careers in

other industries in addition to fewer

people living in rural communities

poses a challenge to the dairy industry,

according to Shelly Mayer, the

executive director of the Professional

Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Keeping it in the Family

Hinchley says their family has

tried to instill in their daughter a

desire to pursue dairy farming while

also keeping their technology updated.

For instance, the family now uses

robotic milking machines, which automatically

milk dairy cattle without

using human labor, and rumination

collars, which monitor cow health

through sensors.

Their daughter recently graduated

from UW–Madison with a degree

in dairy science, which has helped

improve the conditions and technological

aspects of their farm. She now

serves as the sixth-generation dairy

farmer in the family.

“If you’re a family farm and you

want your kids to stay, you have to

keep going on and progressing forward,”

Hinchley says. “You have to

get the new equipment, and you

have to stay up to date on the technology.

If you don’t do that, there’s

nothing really for your kids to come

to. As it is right now, the margins for

farming are very, very tight.”

Despite the fact that many small

dairy farms have shut down due to

these challenges, milk production in

the state is higher than ever — due to

a larger trend of consolidation in the

dairy industry, where larger farms

acquire the land of smaller farms

that can no longer sustain themselves,

Stephenson says.

“The United States had close to

3.5 million dairy farmers back in

the 1930s,” Stephenson says. “And

today we’ve got less than 30,000. So

that consolidation is just a continuous

strong trend. But our farms are

getting bigger. We’re producing more

milk than we ever have.”

According to Stephenson, while

consolidation may cause controversy

among operators of small farms, it

isn’t necessarily a bad thing in terms

of the overall success of the industry

and the economy.

The fact that Wisconsin is home to

both larger- and smaller-sized dairy

farms is a reason why the dairy industry

has been so successful in the

state, according to Mayer.

“Wisconsin has remained a major

world player and where the world

turns to for dairy because we have

such a diversity of dairy farms and

we have a critical mass of different

types of dairy farms,” Mayer says.

Mayer, who also runs a smaller-sized

dairy farm in southeast Wisconsin,

says she sees the abundance

of large dairy farms in the state as an

opportunity to increase the quality

of her dairy products.

“As long as I have larger dairy

farms in my area, there may be competition

for some resources, but as

long as there’s larger dairy farms in

the area, there’ll still be a milk truck

that’s in my area that’s willing to pick

up my milk. There will still be a dairy

nutritionist — the best, not just any

dairy nutritionist — but a really good

one because there’s other farms likely

that are bigger than mine so that

I don’t have to compromise just because

we run a more boutique dairy.

I don’t have to give up anything for

that either. That quality is quality regardless

of size,” Mayer says.

Striving to Continue

Hinchley says the passion and

love for both their animals and consumers

allow them to keep their

farm going, despite the significant

challenges they have faced.

“It’s the passion that we have for

these animals, and it’s the love of

dairy,” Hinchley says. “Knowing that


what we’re doing makes a difference

to be able to provide healthy, nutritious

milk to families is almost life

and it’s living our dreams.”

To keep their business alive, the

Hinchleys have started to diversify

their products by growing crops

such as corn and soybeans. They also

began pasteurizing their own milk

during the pandemic.

“Even though our milk price was

down and we had to dispose of 25%

of our milk during COVID, it did

come back. Consumers showed us

that they love dairy,” Hinchley says.

Hinchley says they are slowly regaining

visitors to their farm, as they

have scheduled more family tours

and school visits for the fall.

In some ways, the closures of other

small farms in the area have also

allowed the Hinchley’s farm to succeed.

When nearby farms permanently

closed down, the Hinchley’s

were able to purchase and acquire

their land.

Mayer says their ability to think

of new ways to diversify their farm

is one way they keep their smaller-sized

farm going.

“My greatest competition needs

to be my own ability to be able to

be nimble and flexible and creative

and seek new ways of doing

things,” Mayer says. “Our family

focuses on doing the best that we

can do, not being bigger than our

neighbor, but being better than

what we were the year before.”

Hinchley says she hopes to see

smaller farms continue to persevere

as they have worked hard to

serve the state and future generations

of farmers.

“It’s a love and a legacy,” Hinchley

says. “Making sure that we’re

doing the best job we can so that

future generations can do better.”



Urban farms encourage

new opportunities for

growing community,

fresh produce

By Gina Musso

What started as a $300 investment in shelves,

trays and seeds to use nutrients and grow

plants in a spare bedroom ultimately transformed

into a community space and urban farm, now

growing 19 tons of produce annually in Madison.

SuperCharge! Foods on Madison’s East Side is one of

the many urban farming initiatives in the area working

to propel efforts toward urban agriculture while developing

community and promoting new sustainable farming


SuperCharge!’s farming efforts started in 2009 when

owner P.T. Bjerke and his partner wanted to explore their

passion for nutrient-dense yet “holistic” foods.

“We started to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to not only

be able to produce food that is good for giving the nutrition

that you need, but it could also feed your psychological

self, your spiritual self, your emotional self,’”

Bjerke says. “Those types of things — the entire person

— the holistic approach to it.”

The farming initiative started as a grow space in

Bjerke’s spare room and expanded into his attic before

he eventually tore down his garage and built a greenhouse

in his backyard. In 2015, he seized an opportunity

to revamp the then-retail and tattoo shop where Super-

Charge! now thrives.

“I strongly believe in community,” Bjerke says. “That’s

why I originally got into this was the idea that we could

actually nourish all levels of our community right from

our own back door.”

P.T. Bjerke, the owner

of SuperCharge!

Foods, maintains

the 700-foot grow

room that cultivates

sunflowers, pea

shoots, wheatgrass,

radish varieties,

broccoli, kale, and

a variety of other

plants and herbs.

SuperCharge! Today

Today, SuperCharge! operates a

nearly 700-square-foot grow room

that cultivates sunflowers, pea

shoots, wheatgrass, radish varieties,

broccoli, kale, and various other

plants and herbs.

“The food that we grow here — the

microgreens — are actually, many of

them, a complete food, so sunflowers

and pea shoots are what we started

growing,” Bjerke says. “Within a

few months, we were growing wheatgrass

as well, and those are three of

the most nutrient dense plants that

you can ingest.”

SuperCharge!’s aims are not only

focused on cultivating holistically

nutritional produce, but also on cultivating

a community that reflects

the neighborhood in Madison.

The goal was to create a space

where people from all walks of life

could have accessibe and affordable

produce in a place where the community

comes together, Bjerke says.

Campus Urban Farming

Across town, young farmers are

working on ways to engage a different

Madison demographic in the

community of urban farming — the

UW–Madison campus community.

F.H. King: Students for Sustainable

Agriculture, a student organization

that supports tower gardens

on campus, aims to provide access to

fresh vegetables and herbs grown inside

two of the campus dining halls,

“We want to be

able to have this

food — this type of

food be accessible

and affordable for


including Gordon’s Dining and

Event Center and Four Lakes Market

at Dejope Residence Hall.

“One of our big mantras is connecting

food, land and the community,”

says Eren Wolf, a UW–

Madison senior who is serving as

co-director of the student organization’s

urban agriculture initiative this

year with fellow senior Marion McKinney.

“We do that by sharing food

with students, obviously, but also

working to bring them to the land,

if possible, to get involved in the system

in a more personal way.”

The tower gardens, which reach

just under 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide,

use a water tank with nutrients that

filter through the tower to mimic the

growing conditions normally provided

to plants through soil.

“The appeal of a tower garden is

that you’re using less space, you’re

optimizing with that vertical build,

and it also doesn’t require any soil,”

Wolf says.

McKinney and Wolf maintain the

tower gardens, which support the

growth of lettuce, edible flowers and

bok choy.

“The goal is for people and students

to go and clip them and eat

them ... If you clip them, more shoots

will sprout and will continue to

grow,” McKinney says. “So that’s actually

a healthier way for the plants

to grow.”

McKinney and Wolf are grateful

that groups in Madison facilitate

conversations surrounding urban

agriculture and bring in community

members who do not have access to

large-scale farming efforts.

“Even in Madison, there’s a good

amount of food deserts in the area,”

McKinney says. “So I think urban

agriculture has a huge role in our local

community, and I’d love for this

passion that a lot of people have for it

to expand and to populate throughout

the community.”

Ultimately, McKinney and Wolf

are motivated by the excitement and

energy moving sustainable and urban

agriculture efforts forward.

“I hope that this inspires people

to look for ways they can have weird

stuff growing in their kitchen,” Wolf

says. “That would be great.”





SuperCharge! Foods

SuperCharge! cultivates

sunflowers, wheatgrass,

pea shoots, radish varieties,

broccoli, kale and other plants

in its nearly 700-square-foot

grow room.

Ripon: Ernessi Farms

Ernessi Farms in Ripon — just

southwest of Oshkosh —

harvests basil, microgreens,

mushrooms and cat grass

using hydroponics. Its aim is

to grow produce without soil

while maximizing their nutrients.

Milwaukee: Hundred Acre

Hundred Acre combats food

insecurity by growing a variety

of greens and vegetables in its

5,000-square-foot controlled

growing environment.

Kenosha: Square Roots

Urban Grower

Kenosha’s Square Roots farm

has the ability to grow over

2.4 million packages of

produce each year. The

farm produces herbs and

salad mixes.

River Falls: Kairos

Indoor Agriculture

Kairos Indoor Agriculture in River

Falls uses 44 vertical growing

systems to grow leafy greens

and herbs.






Great Lakes offer refuge for surfers

far from the coast

By Annabella Rosciglione


reezing cold air, warm waters

and just the right winds coming

from the north or south,

combined with a small city that juts

out into Lake Michigan.

It’s the perfect recipe for Great

Lakes surfing.

Welcome to Sheboygan, Wisconsin,

the “Malibu of the Midwest,”

a term coined by Larry Williams,

who was one of the first to bring

mainstream surfing to the area.

Since the late 1960s, Sheboygan

has grown into a small but notable

surfing community. Despite the

cold air temperatures, the best time

to surf the area is in the fall and

winter months with popular spots

like North Point, which includes a

bend known as “The Elbow.”

Sheboygan surfers thrive, even in

below freezing temperatures, riding

the waves ignites their adrenaline

response and gives them a sense of

being alive.

How It All got Started

The Williams twins, Larry and

Lee, got their surfing start in the

1960s. Growing up two blocks away

from Lake Michigan, they spent every

season near the water and eventually

grew curious enough to try

surfing for themselves.

Larry and Lee now have widespread

recognition, not only in

town, but among other surfers for

their influence on the Sheboygan

surfing community. The Williams

brothers have been featured in

books like “Some Like it Cold,” and

documentaries like “Unsalted” and

“Step into Liquid.”

The Future of Sheboygan Surfing

John Vallo, a 21-year-old from the

Sheboygan area, first heard of surfing

in Sheboygan from the 2007 animated

movie, “Surf’s Up.”

Chicken Joe, a character based on

Larry Williams, proudly announces

in the film that he learned to surf in

the Midwest.

“In Sheboygan when I was first

out there, everyone was just excited

to meet me and wanting to help

me out,” Vallo says. “It’s kind of a

combination of the Midwest being

super friendly and also, just like

[surfing’s] not a big thing, but also

the more people that get into it, the

cooler that is.”

Sheboygan: A Surfing Community

EOS Surf Shop, located in downtown

Sheboygan, has been one of

Wisconsin’s primary surf shops

since 2004. Offering lessons, wintertime

equipment and community

support, the shop is a crutch for

many surfers in the area.

“There’s always some of us out

there willing to give you some tips

or whatever, but he’s got to do it,”

says Mike Miller, owner of EOS

Surf Shop. “You’ve got to be ready

for it. And like I said, you gotta be

a little bit more committed to be a

lake surfer.”

There is an uplifting community

surrounding surfing in Sheboygan

— unlike the coasts where surfing

in the ocean can feel competitive.

“[Great Lakes surfers] are the

friendliest surfers on the planet,

and I’ve been told that many, many,

many times,” Larry Williams says.

The Weather Center Cafe — a surfthemed

coffee shop in Sheboygan — is a

popular spot in the surfing community.




Chefs adapt to challenging era for restaurants

By Design Team


Let Wisconsin’s Largest Home Seller TM ,

find the perfect home for you.

©Shorewest, REALTORS ® EHO | EOE 2022


Wisconsin’s libraries provide patrons with accessible

resources and a sense of community

By Mason Braasch

It’s loud. It’s noisy. And it’s exciting.

It’s the library.

Meadowridge Library, which is

within walking distance from Akira

Toki Middle School, is home to after-school

programs, gaming computers

and rooms for socializing.

For many kids in the surrounding

community, it’s the best place to be

after school.

On Fridays, the kids who completed

their reading goal for the week are

rewarded with a Get Down party,

where they can play video games and

use virtual reality equipment. They

also receive a warm meal.

As the library supervisor, Yesianne

Ramirez-Madera watches the library

come alive each afternoon. As the

socializing room fills with conversation

and board game competitions,

and the computers are powered up

by tweens, Meadowridge Library

becomes a hub for community and

youth engagement.

“They feel loved and cared for, and

we want to create that kind of environment

for them,” Ramirez-Madera

says. “The majority of the staff

knows the names of our kiddos

here, and we know their troubles

and worries.”

Meadowridge Library’s impact

on the community is not an exception

— it’s the standard for libraries

in Wisconsin. Across the state,

libraries support the people in

their communities by helping them

overcome obstacles without barriers.

From resources in housing and

health care, to refugee and immigrant

services and creative learning

programs for court-involved teens,

the services libraries offer go well

beyond books to provide accessible

resources and a thriving sense of

connection in their communities.

“I think that the library is one

of the last places that people can

go and feel welcome and feel like

they’re not being judged for going,”

says Kristin Wick, the director of

public services at the Madison Public

Library. “I also think there are a

lot of people that come to the library

just because they’re kind of isolated.

So, whether it’s giving someone

the right book at the right time or

just being that personal connection,

I think there’s a lot of different ways

that we can impact the community.”

Within the Madison Public Library

system, a variety of services

focus on different issues within the

community. The We Read/Nosotros

Leemos program aims to foster a

love for reading in all ages, and the

Dream Bus, a mobile library where

visitors can apply for library cards

and check out books, supports this

love of reading by making the library

and its books more accessible.

Meet at The Bubbler

Beyond books, the Madison Public

Library engages its community

through services such as the Teen

Bubbler Program, which aims to

support “teens who struggle in the

traditional classroom or identify as

non-learners” by connecting them to

local artists and experts.

The Making Justice program,

which is part of The Bubbler, con-

Along with a diverse

selection of books,


Library has

computers, games

and other activities

for kids and teens

to use. The library

also offers unique

resources for all

ages, including

health care

assistance and

mental wellness




nects at-risk and court-involved

teens with an artist-in-residence,

and fosters relationships while giving

them opportunities to create projects

such as video game design, podcasts

and classroom mixtapes.

The program also holds weekly

workshops at the Dane County Juvenile

Shelter Home, a temporary

living facility for juveniles awaiting

court activity, where students can focus

on a project led by an artist while

connecting with program leaders.

Jesse Vieau, a teen services librarian

and project manager for the program,

says the goal of these workshops

is to encourage conversation

and connection.

“[The students] are focusing on

some project that can be completed

in an hour and a half, while we’re all

focused on conversation and building

them up and learning about the

past without bringing out trauma,

but also addressing it when it comes

up,” he says. “It’s the best day of the

week because every little win is bigger

than the big losses.”


Breaking Down Walls

In Milwaukee, the public library

system has made a significant effort

to provide resources for refugees and

immigrants. At the English Reading

Hour and English Conversation

Hour, which are held virtually

once a week through the Milwaukee

Public Library system, participants

can practice reading and speaking

English in a free, safe environment.

At the library’s job literacy class,

non-English speakers can acquire

cultural knowledge and job vocabulary

that will help them be successful

in their job search.

Eric Johnson, a librarian and program

coordinator of adult literacy

and refugee services at the Milwaukee

Public Library, says these services

are a response to the increasing

requests for education in English as a

second language. Through community

outreach, Johnson has grown

the program, which teaches English

and other skills to speakers of other

languages including French, Arabic

and Rohingya.

“The foundation of what we do

here at MPL for refugee and immigrant

services is breaking down

walls and going into the community,”

Johnson says. “The focus has to

be going out to where people are and

not just assuming they’ll come in

these doors.”

Creating Connections

Outreach has been an essential

part of Libby Richter’s job as well.

As the first library social worker in

Wisconsin, Richter, who works at

the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

in Eau Claire, has worked with

library staff in order to make them

more trauma informed by teaching

them how to recognize signs of trauma

and respond accordingly. In turn,

she has been able to take library services

one step further.

“I could stand outside the library

all I wanted to with a sign that said

there’s a social worker here, but unless

someone’s actually catching a

person in a moment of distress and

letting them know about these services,

then that’s just another person

that they’re gonna have to wait and

see,” Richter says.

At her library, Richter provides

free and confidential social work services

and referrals for issues such as

mental health, substance abuse and

parenting. However, she says the

number one issue that she helps people

with is housing.

“It’s how to navigate a system

where you have a very low income

and all of the rent is extremely high

and people are being discriminated

against because of records or lack of

history or credit or whatever else is

going on and how to move through

that,” Richter says.

In other areas of the library, Richter

is looking to fill in gaps and meet

the needs of the community. One

way she’s doing this is by expanding

the tangible resources that the

library can provide. In an effort to

expand what she calls the “Library

of Things,” Richter and the L.E. Phillips

Memorial Public Library have

created kits that community members

can check out to explore new

resources that go beyond books.

“Let’s not just think of libraries

as books and DVDs and things

like that. It’s wellness, it’s getting to

explore new things,” Richter says.

“These kits can be things like robots,

but they can also be things like

a meditation kit or a kit of sensory

items ... It’s just all about reimagining

what services we can have here, and

that is the community’s living room,

right? It’s a place to live, it’s a place to

connect, have fun and grow.”

The “Library of Things” concept

is present at Meadowridge Library

as well, where a seed library encourages

community members to grow

native prairie plants at home, and

a large selection of diapers in every

size are available for those in need to

take home.

“Libraries are powerful,” Ramirez-

Madera says. “They’re just a vital

place in the community that enhances

the quality of life overall, and

also they can be fun. It is a place that

if you need information on how to

have fun, just come to the library!

We’ll help you with that.”




Mandi Jacquinot

runs an average of

seven miles a day,

logging 50 miles a

week. A sunny day

on the Rountree

Branch Trail in

Platteville gave her

a break from her

usual treadmill runs.

How a triathlete balances

life and training

By Anica Graney


After two decades of continuous

workouts, three kids

and running a business

with her husband, Mandi Jacquinot

knows something about time management

and motivation.

“I’m almost always doing something

I probably have some difficulty

relaxing. It’s not my forte,” Mandi

says as she works toward her goal

of completing a marathon in every

state and making it to the Kona

Ironman World Championships.

To most, Mandi is a superwoman.

To Mandi, she’s just a regular

person making time for the things

she loves most. Exercising, in any

amount she has time for, is what

makes her feel alive.

She picked up jogging while in

college, but soon found herself

wanting to complete a marathon,

which she did at age 23. “After that,

I tried to do a marathon a year,”

Mandi says.

Mandi’s husband, Joe, is also a

marathon runner, and their love

for endurance and extreme fitness

is something they’ve been able to

share over their 17-year-long marriage.

The couple moved to southwestern

Platteville in 2009, where

they started a dental practice and

had their second child all in the

same week. A team in marriage

and business, Joe works on people’s

teeth while Mandi runs the practice

behind the scenes.

Mandi, wanting a challenge outside

of marathons, competed in her

first half Ironman in 2011. She then

spent the next few years competing

in half Ironmans and marathons

across the country.

Then, in 2014, Mandi hit a busy

point in her life. Her family was living

with Joe’s parents as they built

a new house, and she became pregnant

with her youngest, but that

wasn’t going to stop her. She went

on to train for her first full Ironman

while pregnant and competed in it

just months after giving birth.

“That turned out to be a great

race,” Mandi says. She attributes her

success to how well she trained for

it. “I would get babysitters, and I

would just work out the whole time,

like a five-hour bike followed by an

hour run.”

Mandi thinks of herself as the Energizer

Bunny. “For me, I’m built for

doing this type of racing, where it’s

just long and steady,” Mandi says,

but she acknowledges this extreme

hobby of hers is time consuming

with an already busy schedule. “I

just know myself, and I know that I

need to work out every day to make

me feel happy.”

Mandi prioritizes taking care of

her three kids and running the dental

practice with Joe but says we all

need to make time in our lives for

the things that bring us joy.

“If I can’t make an hour out of the

day for myself, something’s wrong,”

Mandi says. For her, exercising is

what relaxes her. Joe often coaxes

Mandi into a run when it looks like

she’s getting stressed out.

“What’s interesting, and maybe

most inspirational, is her positive

attitude all the time,” Joe says. “I feel

like when I work out too much, I hit

gravity. And when she doesn’t get a

workout in, she’s crabby.”

Mandi hopes to pass her motivation

and work ethic to her kids by

leading by example. She also stresses

that what she’s doing isn’t special.

“I think people don’t always understand

what they’re capable of

doing. I’m just a normal person

with three kids and a job,” Mandi

says. “If I can do it, you can do it.”





Local businesses pull visitors to

the unique Wisconsin region

By Samantha Benish

Nearly 10,000 years ago, the

southwestern corner of Wisconsin

went untouched by

glaciers. In turn came its recognizable

name: the Driftless Area.

Its distinctive terrain is filled with

carved bluffs, rolling hills and numerous

river valleys across more

than 24,000 square miles. However,

the real story of the Driftless Area

can be told by the people who live

there. Locals contribute to their

small communities with remarkable

drive, creating prosperous

businesses in the heart of their

homeland. Understanding their

endurance unravels the true heartbeat

of an often forgotten area of

the state. It explores the raw, human

narrative of the perseverance and

sentiment that locals have for the

place they call home.


Pier 4 Cafe

Nestled beneath the bluffs in the

Upper Mississippi River Basin, Pier

4 Cafe sits quietly along the river

in Alma. The bright red building

is hard to miss. It was exactly this

charm that drew Elizabeth Walker

to Pier 4 Cafe. She, along with her

husband and two daughters, decided

to purchase the restaurant in

April 2020 — in the middle of the

coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re like, let’s take the plunge!”

Walker says. “It was trial and error

the first year and you know, it’s

been really well. The hardest part,

of course, is your staffing.”

The town of nearly 700 is located

on the Great River Road which

draws in tourists from around the

country who come to see its breathtaking

views of the Mississippi River

Valley. The town is most popular

in the summer months, which

leaves locals to struggle when the

tourists disappear.

“We’re going on our third winter,

and people still don’t know

that we’re open all winter,” Walker

says. “It’s blood, sweat and tears,

and you just hope and pray that

your locals will support you.”

Despite its slight population,

Walker has learned throughout the

years just how resilient her community

is. Supporting the small

businesses in Alma is what keeps it

alive, she says.

“The locals, they understand,”

she says. “You know, tourists come

in and they don’t care what a cup

of coffee or a steak dinner costs.

But the locals are the ones that

we’re trying to keep the costs low

enough so they will come.”

That vibrant spirit and support is

what keeps Alma on the map.

“How many times do you get to

sit at a table and have a train drive

by?” Walker says. “They thrive and

love that like they’re little kids. Everybody

just loves coming to Alma

because everybody is so nice.”

Erschen’s Florist

For the past 52 years, Janet Erschen

dedicated her life to what she

loves most: her family, her hometown

and flowers.

In 1970, Janet and her husband,

John, started Erschen’s Florist after

one of their daughters expressed interest

in the craft. They began the

small business in the basement of

their family home, with eight children

to fill the space.

The business quickly expanded

into a larger commercial space in

the heart of their hometown. Work

began to pick up, and although Erschen

was overjoyed, she struggled.

“When we first opened, people

just did not pay their bills. Then I

had all the kids at home,” Erschen

says. “It was a hard time. On my

breaks, I would go in the bathrooms

and say a novena. Just so people

would pay their bills.”

Days were filled with hard work

and long hours. Erschen and her

husband had a small staff but mainly

relied on one another to get

through each day, sometimes delivering

the flowers themselves.

Despite numerous hardships,

Erschen’s Florist prevailed and has

It’s hard to miss

Pier 4 Cafe’s

distinct red flair,

which captures


attention as they

travel down the

Wisconsin Great

River Road.



170 miles of scenery, eats

and finds in the Driftless


This scenic river town is stocked with a variety of

activities to enjoy all year long. Stroll down Main Street

to enjoy 16 galleries and shops as well as a number of

area museums. The Great Alma Fishing Float hosts

fishing lovers from early spring to Halloween weekend,

and Buena Vista Park has incredible views of the

Mississippi River Valley.


This bustling city is filled with spectacular views of the

Mississippi River, including the signature sight on top

of Grandad Bluff. The downtown district is filled with

regional culinary delights and an active nightlife.



Located 10 miles from Dubuque, Iowa, Dickeyville is

set in the rolling hills of America’s Dairyland. Mustsee

area attractions include the famous Dickeyville

Grotto, a beautiful structure filled with stone, motor

and bright-colored objects collected from all over

the world.


Platteville is nestled in Grant County along U.S.

Highway 151. Local biking and hiking trails are open

year round to the public, and the community market

supports local businesses in both the summer and

winter seasons. Be sure to stop at the world’s largest

“M” — an iconic symbol of the mining tradition and

history of the town.


The community of Kieler can be described in three

words: small but mighty! Looking for the “best pizza

in downtown Kieler”? Head to locally owned Gooch’s

Greenhouse. Across the road you’ll find Jamestown

Park, which has a number of playgrounds and softball

fields for people of all ages to enjoy. Head to the Kieler

Mall for a bite to eat and meet the neighbors from

right down the street.


brought decades of joy to Grant

County. Erschen’s daughter and

her husband now own and operate

the company, including a second

shop located in Platteville. However,

81-year-old Erschen continues

to work weekends in the original

Dickeyville shop.

“It’s a fun and joyous vocation,”

Erschen says. “Working with flowers...

you make people happy.”

Lavon Heinricy, a part-time

worker at Erschen’s, has dealt with

an array of emotions that come

with working in the profession.

“You might get someone walking

in here one day that’s just overjoyed

because they just got a new

grandbaby,” he says. “Then the next

day you’ll have a husband coming

in, and he wants flowers for his wife

because his wife is fighting cancer.”

“My husband used to tell me all

the time, ‘This should have not

been a flower shop. It should have

been a guidance, counseling service

for people,’” Erschen says.

Going on its fifth decade, Erschen’s

Florist is a true testament to

the value of hard work, sacrifice and

hope. The shop represents more to

the community than a place to simply

purchase fresh flowers — it’s a

place to connect and remember

what matters most.

“This morning, the first customer

I had said, ‘I am so grateful that you

are still here,’” Erschen says. “They

appreciate us here yet.”

Wisconsin Clothing Company

Corey Kaiser always knew he

loved the state of Wisconsin. Growing

up in Kieler, an unincorporated

town in the far southwestern corner

of the state, he learned to appreciate

the unique features of his

hometown — from the simplicity of

privacy to the comfort of knowing

everyone in town.

In his final year at UW-Platteville,

Kaiser discovered that he wasn’t the

only one who felt this way: People

loved Wisconsin, and they wanted

to show it.

“I just knew that there was a market

for people that for one, love the

state as much as I do and that didn’t

want to break the bank trying to

buy clothes for them and their family,”

Kaiser says.

Kaiser began the608 in 2018 and

rebranded to Wisconsin Clothing

Company in 2021. The brand creates

high-quality clothing that is

tailored to telling the unique story

“You want people to

wear it and be proud

to be a part of the

small community that

we have.”

of Wisconsin — from its unincorporated

villages to its largest cities.

“People are going to talk about

it if they have nice clothes,” Kaiser

says. “You want people to wear

it and be proud to be a part of the

small community that we have.”

Through trial and error, Kaiser

exponentially grew Wisconsin

Clothing Company’s reach. Social

media has played an extensive role,

with its total number of followers

surpassing 50,000 across TikTok,

Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

“You know, it’s like a puzzle. It’s

like, you finally figure out where the

last piece goes, so it’s definitely been

a journey,” Kaiser says.

Running a small business isn’t

easy, and Kaiser finds himself doing

most of the work behind the scenes.

However, when situations become

stressful or difficult, he remembers

the reason why he started in the first

place: to show his love and appreciation

of his hometown.

“When we first started, they’re

the ones who were buying the

clothes and just supporting what

I’m trying to do,” he says. “Without

that, we’d probably be done.”

“I always feel like it’s crazy that

people give it such a bad rap, like if

people don’t leave their town where

they grew up. Some people don’t

have to. Some people kind of find

what they need and what they want

right in their hometown.”




Madison takes a crack at cricket

By Thomas Hill

On a sunlit fall day in Fitchburg’s

Gunflint Trail Park,

upward of two dozen athletes

stand in two distinct, tight-knit

huddles discussing final preparations

for their championship game.

As the clock strikes 12:10 p.m.,

both teams break from their huddles

and take to the field. Or, more

correctly, one team takes to the

field. The other sends only two batsmen

to the center of the pitch, each

wielding wide, flat wooden bats.

The Madison Cricket Association

final is about to begin.

“Cricket is everything for us,” says

Dax Patel, a batsman for Patidar 11.

Patidar 11 is one of the two teams

competing in this season’s final. Patel

chats and explains both the game

of cricket and how Madison’s cricket

community operates.

“We grew up together, and we

used to meet up here and there and

play,” Patel says. “They spread the

word around like, ‘Hey, there’s a

cricket game going on’ They come

to watch, and if they’re interested

they obviously join the different

teams here.”

While Patel speaks casually about

the team coming together, what he

fails to properly emphasize is how

committed he and his teammates

are to the game. While a majority of

Patidar 11’s roster comes from the

Madison area, many commute each

weekend from of Iowa to compete

in the Madison Cricket Association.

“So me, the player who’s bowling

right now, the guy who was just

able to [stop] the ball from hitting

the four. That one — the one in

the back? We are coming together

from Iowa, three hours away,” Patel


While for most it’s hard to imagine

traveling upward of three

hours to attend or even play in a

recreational sportting event, for

members of the Madison Cricket

Association, it’s more or less the

norm. Patel talks about another

team, composed mostly of hotel

owners who travel more than four

hours on weekends just to play in

the league.

Community drives this loyalty

and commitment to what is a recreational

sport for its players.

“Cricket brings you huge circles

[of friends],” says Akash Shakunala,

who came to the U.S. to obtain

his masters degree at Rutgers University

in New Jersey 10 years ago.

“They bring all the families together,

so even [outside] of cricket

we have gatherings. All the wives

or partners of players are friends

now, the kids are friends now. It

becomes a huge community.”

This sense of community and

relationship seems to be the overwhelming

theme of the day. Recreational

sports may offer residents

a chance to stay in shape, make a

few friends and play a sport they

enjoy — but for this community of

cricketers, it’s about much more.

Cricket not only provides them a

sport, but it gives them a community

away from home.



EDM is at the heart of a musical renaissance

By Matthew Blaustein


genre born out of the doldrums

of the dying days of

disco, electronic dance music

emerged in the Badger State in the

1990s. In October 1992, more than

1,000 music fans were arrested at a

rave in Milwaukee’s Historic Third

Ward, thrusting the music scene into

a negative limelight.

With Wisconsin media pushing

the narrative of a genre hampered

by drug use and unsafe venues, electronic

music was forced to find its

way underground.

Not anymore.

Electronic music became one of

the largest genres in the state, bringing

head-numbing bass, blissful treble

melodies and bright lights to venues.

However, more important than

the music itself is the community it

brings along with it — a shared spirit

championing inclusivity and innovation.

The culture of EDM in Wisconsin

is on the pulse of something

greater than it could have ever imagined

— a cultural renaissance.

A Family Affair

For Josh Hietpas, a DJ and talent

booker at The LED Room in Appleton,

the world of electronic music

is a family affair. As the son of two

wedding DJs, Josh remembers when

his parents first exposed him to electronic

music nearly a quarter of a

century ago.

“Back in like 1997, [my dad] used

to cruise us around,” he says. “He

would get off work at 12 o’clock, and

we would cruise around Appleton.”

Those late night drives introduced

Hietpas to EDM and now, 25 years

later, he hits the decks regularly. He

performs under the stage name DJ

YARSH, and is often joined by the

very man who first got him interested

in the genre — his father.

“He’s been going to shows with me

now since 2011,” Hieptas says. “He

went to my first EDM show with me,

not as a guardian or like a supervisor

or anything. He’s like, ‘I want to go.’

And so it was right around when we

first started DJing [together].”

Dry Nights and New Discoveries

A prior fan of the genre because of

his discovery of artists such as deadmau5,

Porter Robinson and Skrillex

on iTunes, Ross Rautmann saw an

advertisement for the Playstation

video game DJ Hero and immediately

bought it. As he started to play

through the stages, his intrigue in the

genre grew.

From that day forward, he was

hooked, determined to make a path

for himself within the genre.

“I wanted to start making my own

music, so I began to teach myself

through YouTube tutorials,” he says.

“I’ve been going steady ever since!”

After attending his first concert

in Milwaukee, Rautmann was determined

to perform live. That determination

would end up paying

off sooner rather than later, through

his concept of “dry nights” (shows

without alcohol that are accessible

to individuals of all ages) emerging

as a recurring show in the Appleton

music scene.



“Me and a few close friends made

up a DJ trio and began throwing teen

dry nights at a local nightclub in Appleton

while we were in high school,”

Rautmann says.

A Venue for Up-and-Comers

When Riley Gasiorowski first

attended a show at Segredo (now

Liquid) almost a decade ago in Madison,

the standard show format was

far different than it is now.

“The space was operating a little

bit more as a dance club,” he says.

“It’d be one [little-known] DJ all

night, and folks would come out to

party and dance. We weren’t doing

nearly as many big shows.”

At the time, Gasiorowski was a

UW–Madison sophomore working

as a show technician at the venue.

“As we tried to pivot more towards

... a hard ticket room, we wanted

to focus less on being a dance club

and more on being a proper music

venue, even though we do focus and

specialize in EDM,” he says.

Since the pivot, Liquid has become

a huge hit in southern Wisconsin.

Liquid’s true strong suit, however,

is not the large acts that have performed

on its stage or its status as a

leader of the EDM scene. Instead, its

success is due to its impact on young

DJs. Through its DJ Summit series,

Liquid has given independent upand-coming

DJs a platform to showcase

their skills.

Break The Walls Down

After going to Electric Forest,

Claire DeRosa knew she was destined

to run the decks on her own,

and taught herself how to DJ.

By the end of 2019, DeRosa became

the president of the Society of

Professional Disc Jockeys, the resident

DJ club at UW–Madison. She

became a regular at local Madison

venues, performing under the stage

name Clur. Now a four-year veteran

of the EDM club scene, DeRosa sees

the good and bad that EDM offers.

As a female artist in a male-dom-

inated genre, DeRosa has faced numerous

sexist stereotypes since her

debut, with a good amount of said

biases present during the gig-booking

phase throughout both Wisconsin

and Illinois.

“Often I see women getting

booked for tokenist gigs like ‘Pussy

Riot’ or a ‘Fight for Our Rights: Roe

v. Wade’ gig when those same venues

won’t book them as openers for big

headliners,” she says.

However, DeRosa does foresee a

way to break down these sexist walls

— and it starts with the next generation

of talent.

“If you have resources available

to help women learn how to use

these softwares and tools, there will

hopefully be more women taking up

DJing,” DeRosa says.

DJ Mercury

(Hunter Glassford)

and Foster City

(Matt Blaustein,

Curb Multimedia

Producer) perform

for the crowd at

Liquid in Madison.



Denmark sisters transcend heart disease, grow families

By Zoe Shannon Bendoff McManus

Our photo

caption would

go here in

Avenir Heavy!!

In June, Steffi Thiem found out

she is pregnant with her fourth

child, a baby girl due in March.

There was once a time when

Thiem and her younger sister, Cassi

Oshefsky, thought they may never

have children at all.

These two women would not

be where they are today without

life-changing care from creative doctors

who strive to keep their patients’

hearts in good hands.

A Pulsing Discovery

Fourteen years ago, Thiem, then

17 and living in the family’s hometown

of Luxemberg, near Green

Bay, went to the doctor for what she

thought would be a normal checkup.

There, her doctor discovered that

she had the same heart defect her

younger sister, Oshefsky, was diagnosed

with when she was born.

“I always felt really bad for [Cassi]

because she had to go to all these

checkups and worry about overdoing

it in sports and stuff, and it honestly

never crossed my mind that it

could happen to me,” Thiem says.

This heart condition is called

a bicuspid aortic valve. A typical

aortic valve is meant to have three

leaflets, which Thiem compares to

the Mercedes-Benz emblem. Thiem

and Oshefksy instead have a genetic

condition where two of those three

leaflets are fused. Because the heart

is forced to work extra hard, those

affected run the risk of their valve

becoming too tight or too leaky.

The condition impacted the sisters’

lives in completely different

ways, but they agree that it fostered

their special bond.

Regaining Their Rhythm

Four years after Thiem’s diagnosis,

she went in for a routine visit with

her cardiologist who noticed that her

valve looked enlarged. Thiem found

out she would need valve-replacement

surgery just two weeks later.

“It was a shock that you would go

in for these checkups every year and

you never thought you were gonna

be told you had to have the surgery,

so it was very overwhelming and

scary,” Thiem says.

Oshefsky remembers Thiem’s

strength, which helped Oshefsky get

through her own procedure shortly

after that.

“When [Steffi was diagnosed], she

had such a short period of time that

she thought about it before getting

the surgery, whereas I had a full 18

years of going to all those appoint-

Steffi Thiem,

featured here with

her family, and

her younger sister,

Cassi Oshefsky,

share a heart

condition that could

have prevented

them from having

children, but

doctors at Froedtert

& Medical College

of Wisconsin helped

them treat it.



ments and meeting with the cardiologist,”

Oshefsky says.

Oshefsky says it took time before

the reality set in that she would eventually

need surgery — a procedure

that inspired her career as a licensed

practical nurse.

The sisters made the difficult decision

to replace their bicuspid aortic

valves with mechanical ones rather

than the alternative: pig valves that

often need replacement within 5-to-

10 years.

“At that time, it was like 2008 ...

they didn’t know if you could even

have kids with the mechanical valve,”

Thiem says. “ ... it was so emotional

trying to decide what to do because a

pig valve doesn’t last forever.”

But at 21 years old, having children

still felt a long way off.


Carrying a Tiny Heart

The sisters once believed they

may never safely have kids, but that

changed five years ago when Oshefsky

found out she was pregnant with

her oldest daughter, Aubrey.

Oshefsky’s doctor referred her to

the Froedtert & Medical College of

Wisconsin Heart Disease in Pregnancy

Program in Milwaukee, co-directed

by heart specialist Dr. Scott

Cohen and maternal fetal medicine

specialist Dr. Meredith Cruz.

Cohen says they designed the program

in 2016 knowing women born

with congenital heart disease are

living into childbearing years, and

heart disease may put them at risk

during pregnancy. Before the program

started, he says he remembers

a handful of times when patients’

and their mothers’ jaws dropped at

the news that they could safely carry

out pregnancy with the right care.

“It takes us talking as a group in

the same room to come up with a

comprehensive delivery plan to keep

these patients safe,” Cruz says.

Two months after Oshefsky found

out that she was pregnant, Thiem

also discovered she was expecting

her first child, beginning the sisters’

shared, ongoing journey with Froedtert.

Both sisters developed a close

relationship with their team of doctors

amid unknowns and nerves.

“Each time [we deliver with

Froedtert], it’s gotten a little less

nerve-wracking and scary ... I mean

it’s still childbirth and anything can

happen, but it’s nice to know what

we’re in for going [to Froedtert],”

Thiem says. “A lot of times when I go

down there, and my sister as well, we

have a lot of the same nurses which

is really fun to know someone who

remembers your name.”

Oshefsky says Cruz keeps up a

strong relationship with her family

and reaches out often.

“It’s super rewarding to work with

patients like Cassi and Steffi because

they come back to us with all of their

future pregnancies, so you know

they trust us, and it’s super rewarding

to be part of that journey with

them — to be able to have children

and keep them safe at the same time,”

Cruz says.

Because Oshefsky and Thiem’s

condition is genetic, Cohen says

his team conducted fetal echocardiograms

on each of their babies at

around 20 weeks. Although bicuspid

aortic valves are the most common

type of congenital heart disease, he

says they are extremely hard to catch

before babies are born.

Thiem says the moment she found

out her son Cole had the same heart

condition is one she will never forget.

She felt connected with her mother

who has supported the sisters every

step of the way.

“I’m happy I can be there for

[Cole] because I’ve been through it

all,” Thiem says. “I feel like I have a

really special bond with him.”

Miracle-like Motherhood

Today, the sisters don’t just share a

congenital heart defect, but they also

share the experience of motherhood.

Their first daughters were born two

months apart, and each sister had

two more children while Steffi awaits

her fourth’s arrival.

Thiem says the sisters’ experience

watching their children grow up together

is indescribable. Their bond

grows through a mutual understanding

of what it is like to have anxieties

about their hearts as they care for

their children.

Thiem says she is eternally grateful

for the doctors and staff at Froedtert

who helped her and Oshefsky get

to where they are today. She cannot

imagine her life without their beautiful,

growing family.

“It’s almost shocking that we’re

having a fourth child, but we have

so much trust in the doctors and the

team at Froedtert,” Thiem says. “I’m

not scared.”

Cassi Oshefsky and

her husband, Lucas,

are grateful for the

care she received

from Froedtert &

Medical College of

Wisconsin, which

has allowed them to

have a family.



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