"Courage" is the theme of the Wisconsin Book Festival on Oct. 7-11, and Madisonians, as well as all Americans, are utilizing courage to face the demands of a declining economy and the horror of war. This year's festival has a specific focus on food, community and land.

Will Allen, Milwaukee urban farmer, kicked off this year's events with an outstanding presentation at the Goodman Center on Sept. 17 to an overflowing crowd. People sat on the floor to hear this 2008 MacArthur Genius Award fellow share his vision for feeding fresh, organic food to people all year round. Allen's talk was a reminder that for the first time in human history, more people live in urban areas than in rural. This means that new ways need to be discovered to feed people in cities. Growing Power, his organization, aims is to inspire communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.

Allen framed his talk, about food, community and land, with his personal observation about what farming means to him by sharing that "every morning I awake at 4 a.m. and go to the personal farm that I own with my wife, Cynthia. I put my hands in the soil and only then do I feel whole." Will Allen, innovative farmer and humanitarian, used courage to see a problem and his farming ingenuity to be an integral part of the solution.

The Book Festival continues this theme of courage by offering scores of other fascinating panels by writers, with the culminating event being a talk by Wendell Berry, the author of more than 40 works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at the Overture Center. Berry is also a farmer with a deep commitment to land who understands the value of community and promotes the importance of living sustainably. He lives and works with his wife Tanya Berry on their farm in Port Royal, Ky.

One of Berry's most famous quotes is, "The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope." His latest book is "Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food."

The Berry talk is free, but tickets are required. Advance ticket availability has ended, but there will be a limited number of tickets available on site at 3 p.m. Oct. 11.

Another festival event of special interest will feature high school winners of the Bus Lines and Poetry Out Loud competitions. Bus Lines winners will share their original poetry while Poetry Out Loud winners will share the words of famous poets at the Africana Restaurant at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Garden lovers get ready for a great family event at Troy Gardens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. There will be free hot soup, good music, and lively conversation about food, land and community, as well as giveaways.

Meet Catherine Alexis "Lexi" Victorias Gee, author of "Preemies Rock!" about being born prematurely. There will be a book signing and a portion of the proceeds go to the March of Dimes. Her event is at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, at the Madison Children's Museum.

Another must-see event is at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Harambee-South Madison Health and Family Center. The Agent, Editor and Publisher Panel will offer an assist to writers in getting their stories published. The panel will include freelance writer Kelly Wimmer, who has been both an agent and editor; Robert Wolf, the author and editor of more than 25 books and a former Chicago Tribune columnist; and Lilada Gee, who has written a memoir about her childhood abuse and owns Hayah Publishing.

The Wisconsin Book Festival is one of the premier events in Madison. Where else is the book explored, examined and enjoyed by thousands with events free and open to the public?

Fabu is Madison's poet laureate and a consultant in African-American culture and arts. She writes a monthly column for The Capital Times. www.artistfabu.com

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