Dispatches from Our Own Wisconsin: Dani Lind of Rooted Spoon
Dani Lind, owner and head chef of Rooted Spoon, leverages her local agricultural connections to bring quality ingredients to the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin. She has spent the last 20 years or so cooking, gardening, preserving, exploring, and developing relationships with local food and farmers. Dani bought her 80-acre farm in 2001, where her husband Mike raises grass-fed beef. She started Rooted Spoon Culinary, a farm-to-table catering business, in 2010 and opened the Rooted Spoon Kitchen Table, a special event space and part-time bar/restaurant in downtown Viroqua in 2012. The Rooted Spoon Kitchen Table hosted the Wisconsin Idea Seminar in both 2017 and 2019 where participants learned how Lind leverages unique aspects of her community to create local, place-based meals. On each occasion Lind designed special family-style meals that honored Vernon County’s rich Scandinavian history.
We caught up with Dani to ask a few questions about how she and her community are continuing to highlight food and remain creative as times change.
Have you seen your community come together in response to COVID-19? If so, how? Very much. Our Viroqua Chamber Main Street has been amazing – they jumped in right away and started a gift card purchasing campaign for businesses that had to close. They’ve also been organizing a weekly webinar with guest speakers about business assistance opportunities and working to re-organize our farmers market into an online ordering/pick up system for the farmers. Some random people in the community started a virtual tip jar for restaurant/bar workers (which was a very sweet thought). Our community Facebook groups immediately started offering help to neighbors. A couple of weeks into the shutdown our team at the Rooted Spoon started a weekly 3-course take-out meal that’s been selling out every week just because folks want to support us, and customers have been including generous tips even though it’s just take-out!
You have been able to leverage your local agricultural connections to bring farm-to-table food to the Rooted Spoon Culinary/Kitchen Table. How is your food community preparing to weather this crisis? I am still in contact with some of my farmers and they all say they’re doing a ton of sales to food co-ops and directly to consumers. It is helping to make up for the decrease in restaurant sales. I’m a lot more isolated than normal these days, but that’s my sense!
As restaurants and other eateries radically change their service, or in some cases temporarily close, what do you hope people will keep in mind? Gosh, I don’t know! Part of me wants folks to realize how great it is to cook for yourself and eat out less in the future, but of course, the business part of me wants them to miss restaurant/catering food and appreciate it even more! Maybe we will all gain a greater appreciation of scratch food made with quality ingredients – how about that?
Have you been able to use this time creatively? If so, how? Re-infusing energy into my farm has been amazing. I haven’t spent this much time at home or in my garden since I started my business 10 years ago. We tripled our garden space. Our firewood stacks have never been as full. We rented a wood chipper and chipped three years’ worth of brush piles into mulch that is already spread on all my gardens. We planted new fruit trees and shrubs and our greenhouse is full of starts. I do NOT usually have time for all this in the spring, or when I do it’s super stressful to squeeze it in. Now it’s therapeutic and fun! Ditto with cooking meals at home – my husband and I are cooking and eating together all the time and it’s awesome! We usually survive on leftovers from the Rooted Spoon, which are great and we’re always grateful for, but it’s been super nice to be able to just cook for the two of us too!
Do you have any advice for others on keeping spirits up during times like these? Go outside. Take the time to make great food and enjoy it. Appreciate what you have.
Dispatches from Our Own Wisconsin is a profile series that showcases fresh stories, observations, and insight from our Wisconsin Idea Seminar partners who are facing, engaging, and addressing critical issues in their communities.