Tag Archives: food justice

It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project

Robert Pierce at Meriter Hospital
Robert Pierce in the Meriter’s site of the South Madison Farmers’ Market

This post is about my partnership in South Madison.  Reading the most recent story at the Capital Times about our project could potentially be misleading as this may be perceived as just another job training trying to help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals (FIIs). FIIs are not the problem.  FIIs are part of our solution in developing a strong and just local food system in South Madison.

First, it is very possible that we have not been able to communicate clearly about what is it that we want to do with the project.  It is very convenient to think that our project is just another job training for FIIs who lack of skills and lack of trust when trying to reenter the society.  This project is thought to bring together a group of saviors who will give the skills and jobs to FIIs.  No, we are not a savior, and this project is not a job training.  We are using the job training as a means, but the ultimate goal is to build a strong connection between the commercial urban agriculture skills and the food desert community where these FIIs are a part of. Continue reading It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project

Writing a reporting article


One of the skills that I would like to promote for academics is the ability to write a popular article, reporting their activities while they are working with grassroots communities.  I do realize that most of my work will not be “sexy” enough for a reporter to write.  So instead of waiting for their report, I would just write my own and circulate through social media.

My most recent reporting article “South Madison farmer fights food injustice with Ex-Cons” has gotten attention.   Both Anthony Cooper and Robert Pierce were approached by the Capital Times after reading this article.  It certainly helped amplify the mission of the project, and reach out broader community about the food justice movement in South Madison.

Update Aug 10 – read the article at host.madison.com.

First “serious” grant!


I am truly honored and humbled that I had the opportunity to work with amazing students of Nelson Institute and community partners SMFM and Nehemiah who could deliver this kind of work.  This is the first “serious” grant I am part of!

The recent approval of the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment would continue to facilitate the realization of a viable local food systems in South Madison.  The multiple partners associated in this project could be a model in how to deliver social change through an intensive collaborative work.

More information about this project, please read the project partnership page.


Infographic on South Madison Food Justice Project

Abby Jackson is a friend who joined our team for the South Madison food justice project.  She would be a Teaching Assistant for the service learning capstone course for the 2014-2015 academic year.  She was one of our students in our previous community-university partnership with The Natural Step Monona, where I got to know her excellent community-oriented skills that essential for our project.

Among one of a few things that she did in starting off her journey with us was to put together this infographic about the project.  The poster was presented at the Wisconsin Prevention of Diabetes & Center for Integrated Agriculture Studies, and won a prize in the category of Community Access to Healthy Food.

Please view the poster in pdf that illustrates our plan for the project.


Robert Pierce and South Madison friends honored by UW-Madison Chancellor


by: Alex Schwartz and Dadit Hidayat

On Tuesday June 3rd 2014 there was a big celebration for friends of South Madison at the Olin House, the UW-Madison Chancellor’s residence. Robert Pierce was honored with the 2014 LaMarr Billups Community-University Engagement Award by the UW-Madison Chancellor, Becky Blank. His exceptional collaboration with the university for over 15 years is unparalleled.

The LaMarr Billups award is a prestigious one for individuals who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to campus-community partnerships. LaMarr Billups was a much respected community leader at UW-Madison, and was deeply committed to key civic institutions and social causes. He served as a special assistant to two UW-Madison chancellors and was the director of community relations from 1996 to 2007. Continue reading Robert Pierce and South Madison friends honored by UW-Madison Chancellor

South Madison Farmers’ Market Looking for Local Supports


by Jasmine Badreddine and Wally Graeber

The South Madison Farmers’ Market (SMFM) has been in the area for more than a decade. Despite the strong intention to provide safe, affordable, healthy food to the South Madison community, why does the market struggle to attract both vendors and customers?

That is the question that Robert Pierce and Shellie Pierce asked a team of undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to answer. Robert and Shellie, a motivated father-daughter pair, are two key organizers of the market. They collaborated with eight students from the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies to conduct a research project this past fall semester to address the question.

Continue reading South Madison Farmers’ Market Looking for Local Supports