The ninth annual Kickapoo Country Fair returns to southwestern Wisconsin on July 28, featuring chef Michel Nischan, food policy expert Raj Patel and food safety advocate Andrew Kimbrell. The fair will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in La Farge, WI, with the cooperative theme of “Everything’s Better Together!” Nestled amid the steep hills and coulees of southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless region, this year’s Kickapoo Country Fair will attract thousands to a day-long festival of growing, cooking, eating and sharing food, together, sponsored by Organic Valley.

Expect lots of family fun. In addition to kid favorites like ice cream making, face painting, and a petting zoo of farm animals, kids can go for the gold in farmer Olympics; learn about cooperation with giant stretchy bands and parachutes; and smell, touch and taste safe, wild plants with herbal educators. Older guests can learn how to raise backyard chickens, forage for wild mushrooms, keep bees, make pesto, and savor local beer and cheese pairings. People of all ages can chow down on delicious, organic, local food and New Orleans rock-n-roll band Cowboy Mouth will perform on the main stage at 7 p.m.

This year’s Fair theme is a nod to the United Nations declaration of 2012 as the “International Year of Cooperatives.” Highlighting what we can do together to drive change in our food system, internationally renowned food author and activist Raj Patel will headline the event at 1 p.m. Patel is a strong voice for creating a fairer society and sustainable economy, particularly as it relates to food production and consumption. His latest book, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, explores our nation’s economic structure and the recent collapse. He is also the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, which discusses the worldwide food crisis and what needs to be done to solve it. Patel’s work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, NPR and BBC.

“More and more evidence points to the fact that cooperative, organic farming can build communities and save the environment,” said Patel. “The more we learn, the more the question changes from ‘Can we feed the world organically’ to ‘How will we feed the world, organically and better, together?'”

Festival sponsor Organic Valley has 1,723 organic farmers-owners nationwide — dozens of which are located just miles from the Kickapoo Country Fair grounds — and has thrived largely due to its belief that the world is made better through cooperation.

Andrew Kimbrell will address fairgoers at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage. Founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety and the International Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C., Kimbrell is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys and an author of numerous books and articles on environment, technology and society, and food issues. His recent books include Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food, Fall Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture and The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life.  In 2007, Kimbrell was named one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet by The Guardian-U.K.

Fair goers will get their Kickapoo Kitchen on with Chef Michel Nischan, sustainable food pioneer, restaurant owner, award-winning cookbook author and PBS celebrity chef, in a hands-on workshop whipping up culinary tastes at 4:30 p.m. in the workshop/demo tent. Other chefs and cookbook authors will lead workshops and teach cooking techniques, such as kitchen herb gardening, vegetable fermentation, soft cheese making, creating a great pork rub and DIY pig butchering.  This year’s “Practically Green” tent features a series of lifestyle workshops that provide practical green living ideas and advice fair-goers can implement at home, including edible landscaping, grafting and budding fruit trees, beekeeping and advice for raising backyard chickens.

Passes providing access to all Kickapoo Country Fair activities are only $5 for adults, $2 for kids 12 and under, and free for kids five and under. Free food sampling occurs all day long, including pesto, meats and the popular beer and cheese pairings. For those interested in making it a weekend affair, camp or stay the night at one of the local campgrounds, bed & breakfasts or country cabins, then return to the fair grounds for an all-you-can-eat organic breakfast at Organic Valley’s Milky Way Café on Sunday, July 29 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Cost is $8 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under and free for kids three and under.

Organic Valley hosts the Kickapoo Country Fair with support from more than 75 local businesses and organizations, including the Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Kamp Kenwood and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. For more information about the event, including the official schedule and area lodging information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.kickapoocountryfair.org, or find the fair on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KickapooCountryFair.

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