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Updated: Eat, tour, learn: Cooking series explores Black agriculture in Wisconsin

Updated: Eat, tour, learn: Cooking series explores Black agriculture in Wisconsin


The Cheyenne Valley, one of the largest rural Black settlements of the 19th century, is known for its attention-grabbing "round barns."

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A new cooking and event series aims to dig deeper into the rich history of Black agriculture and foodways in Wisconsin.

Chef Yusuf Bin-Rella of TradeRoots Farms and Pasture and Plenty are partnering to present a three-part cooking demonstration and seminar series entitled Explore the Landscape.

The series will begin with a virtual event on Thursday, July 22, featuring a lecture on the history of human migration from doctoral candidate Chris Keeve and an “Afrodiasporic Summer Picnic” cooking demonstration lead by Bin-Rella.

Participants will also learn about the Cheyenne Valley, Wisconsin’s largest rural Black settlement in the 19th century and one of the few that existed beyond the South. Nearly 150 Black settlers built a farming community near Hillsboro that lasted until the early 20th century.

“To be honest, it was a history that I hadn’t heard before,” said Christy McKenzie, owner and founder of Pasture and Plenty. “I was so excited to learn that the Cheyenne Valley continues to really celebrate that heritage.”

Those who wish to add to the experience can also pick up their own picnic meal in Madison at Pasture and Plenty. The picnic kit will include smoked pork tenderloin with cherry pear chutney or smoked sweet potato, with sides of saladu ñebbe (Senegalese black-eyed pea salad), fresh watermelon, Flint cornbread with butter, and a maple sugar black raspberry pie bar.

Attendees can purchase tickets to only the virtual demo or the demo and picnic together, for a suggested price of $15-$25. Both options include a map and guidebook for a self-guided tour of the Cheyenne Valley Heritage Area.

The FairShare Community Supported Agriculture Coalition has also published a multimedia tour of the Cheyenne in their Routes to Roots app. Those who sign up for will have access to oral histories, poetry, historical narrative and music on their tour.

The series “really takes what we’ve learned in the pandemic, which is that people are interested in connecting in virtual spaces around food, topics and especially opportunities to enrich their understanding of the diversity that’s here in our community,” McKenzie said.

While the next two events in the Explore the Landscape series have not yet been announced, McKenzie confirmed that they will take place on Sep. 9 and Sept. 30.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect event changes.

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