Posts Tagged: Stockholm

Puentes/Bridges

Building Cultural Bridges: How an area non-profit is helping Midwestern dairy farmers build relationships with their immigrant employees from Mexico.

BY MAGGIE SONNEK

As Mike and Kris Ingvalson pack their bags and prepare for a late-winter trip from the frigid Midwest to sunny Arizona, Mike isn’t worried about leaving his large dairy farm. He has seven workers who will make sure everything goes as planned.

“I have the best crew I’ve ever had working for me,” he says, speaking of his team of immigrant workers, all from one region in Mexico. “They take care of me. I never worry about the work getting done.”

The location of Zongolica in Mexico; Mike & Kris Ingvalson; Mike & Adrian

At left, Mike and Kris Ingvalson pose in a ‘Happy Birthday’ frame. Above, the photo and map pinpoint where Zongolica is located in Mexico, and what the region looks like. Below, Mike poses with Adrian.
Photos courtesy Puentes/Bridges.

In fact, it was just a year ago that he took a different trip – this time to that region in Mexico. He visited one of his former employees, Adrian, and Adrian’s family.

Mike and Kris own and run a second-generation dairy farm, Ingvalson Hilltop Farms, in the southeastern Minnesota town of Caledonia. They’re one of roughly 15 farms in western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota involved in Puentes/Bridges, a nonprofit that organizes annual trips to Mexico to bridge the cultural gap between farmers and their immigrant employees. By allowing dairy farmers to meet the wives, parents, and children of their employees, connections between the two cultures are formed. This often results in employee longevity and productivity.

Puentes/Bridges is based out of Fountain City, Wisconsin, a small town perched on the Mississippi about 40 miles north of La Crosse. Puentes is the Spanish word for bridges, and, living up to its name, the non-profit is all about building cultural bridges.

Puentes/Bridges founder, Shaun Duvall, originally started the program in the late 1990s to help ease the language barrier between dairy farmers and their employees. At the time, she was a Spanish teacher in western Wisconsin. She is thrilled that the program has continued on, and transformed into one that’s not just closing the language gap, but building lasting relationships between farmers and employees.

“It’s not rocket science,” the now-retired teacher and former Puentes/Bridges director says. “These workers want what everyone else does: A decent wage for their work and a better life for their families.”

Before hiring employees, Mike handled most of the milking and farm chores by himself – until his three kids got involved with high school activities. He and Kris wanted to be present for each of their games and band concerts. Around that same time, he started milking three times a day.

“I knew how to work with cows, but I was a little scared to work with people,” he says with a chuckle. “But, I knew if I didn’t hire people to help me, I’d miss my kids growing up.”

Though his crew changes, Mike says every hire has exceeded his expectations. In fact, they’ve become like family, strengthened by the fact that all seven men live just yards away from the barn in a house owned by Mike.

Veracruz viewed from the van; dairy farmer Stan Linder; Adrian's house built for several families

At left, the mountainous region of Veracruz, as viewed from the 10-passenger van driven by Stan Linder, a dairy farmer from Stockholm, Wisconsin (pictured above middle). Stan was one of nine area folks who went on a trip to Mexico in January 2019. Above right, Adrian’s 4,000-square-feet house, built as a home for several families. Throughout the 10 years that Adrian worked for Mike Ingvalson, he deliberately and regularly sent money home to his family so they could build that house. Photos courtesy Puentes/Bridges.

So, when Mike and Kris had the opportunity to visit former employee Adrian, they jumped at the chance. When they arrived in the small town of Zongolica, in the southern, mountainous state of Veracruz, four hours east of Mexico City, Mike was stunned. Adrian’s 4,000-square-feet home, meant for several families, was gorgeous both inside and out, he says. The most impressive part? Throughout the 10 years that Adrian worked for Mike, he deliberately and regularly sent money home to his family so they could build that house.

But, what stuck with Mike more than the spacious, beautiful home, was a conversation he had with Adrian’s mother. “I pulled her aside and said, ‘How were you able to let your son leave when he was just a teenager? Weren’t you afraid?’ She told me that yes, she was scared, but she prayed that he would be safe and would connect to a good family.” Mike pauses. “I couldn’t believe the faith she had.”

Puentes/Bridges has allowed Mike to understand the lives and backgrounds of his employees –like Adrian – many of whom are undocumented and under the risk of detention, all for the pursuit for a better life.

Immigrant workers now make up an estimated 51 percent of all dairy workers in the U.S. According to a national survey of dairy farms*, eliminating the immigrant labor force would reduce the U.S. dairy herd by 2.1 million cows. Milk production would decrease by 48 billion pounds – as would the number of dairy farms. This would cause retail milk prices to increase by a whopping 90 percent.

Puentes/Bridges group trip to Mexico January 2019

This Puentes/Bridges group traveled to Mexico in January 2019 to visit families of individuals that have worked on dairy farms in the Driftless area. / Photo courtesy Puentes/Bridges

Mercedes Falk, the nonprofit’s current director, recently returned from a trip to Mexico in January 2019. She and eight others – dairy farmers, community members, and one journalist – made the multi-day trek through several villages of Veracruz, meeting families of immigrant workers back home in Wisconsin. Traveling in a 10-passenger van driven by Stan Linder, a dairy farmer from Stockholm, Wisconsin, the group enjoyed meals of tacos and tamales, hot coffee in homemade ceramic mugs, and authentic conversations about life in both Veracruz and the Midwest.

“Spending time with these families is the most important part of the trip,” Mercedes says. “It really helps farmers understand how their employees operate.”

Mercedes worked as a special education teacher in Milwaukee before moving to rural western Wisconsin to work on a farm.

“I became so fascinated with growing food. But, I was disturbed that I didn’t know anything about where it came from,” she says. Eventually, she left teaching and got involved in the local food scene in Milwaukee, working on a small farm and in a restaurant.

“When I moved to Fountain City, there was a huge learning curve,” she says. “But, I became more self-sufficient and confident navigating challenges and finding solutions.”

That’s when the opportunity to lead Puentes/Bridges came up. John Rosenow, another dairy farmer who’s on the nonprofit’s board, and former director Shaun suggested she think about stepping up to the challenge. Now, three years later, Mercedes balances her time visiting various dairy farms where she helps with interpreting needs between farmers and their employees.

Puentes/Bridges’ paradigm of fostering relationships fits so well with dairy farms, like Mike and Kris’ Ingvalson Hilltop Farm, because of their family-owned business models.

“We have found that our stories are not that different,” Mercedes said in a recent interview with Wisconsin Public Radio. “We share similar hopes and dreams. Once people get the chance to know someone who looks different from them, they’re not as hesitant to reach out because they realize there are many more similarities than they would have thought.”

As Mike plans to pass down the farm to the third generation – his daughter and son-in-law – he knows that with help from his employees, the legacy of hard work and integrity will continue.

As for Puentes/Bridges, the journeys to Mexico to meet families of employees will also go on.

“I hope we can continue nurturing these relationships,” Mercedes says. “We share a lot more than we think.”


Passionate about storytelling, Maggie has spent much of her career interviewing fascinating folks and telling their stories. When she’s not writing, she’s sipping an iced vanilla coffee or exploring the Driftless Region with her husband and three small kids.


Learn more about Puentes/Bridges:

www.puentesbridges.org

www.facebook.com/puentesbridges

www.wpr.org/tags/puentes-bridges

www.jsonline.com – “Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Build Bridges”

progressive.org – “The Houses that Milk Built”

*The Economic Impacts of Immigrant Labor on U.S. Dairy Farms

Center for North American Studies

Driftless Day Trips: Great River Road of Wisconsin

WIGRR Photo Jay Olson
(Above photo by Jay Olson-Goude. Below photos by Inspire(d) Media.)

Isn’t fall in the Driftless Region the best? The colors are lovely, and there are tons of perfect days ahead for a fun little road trip adventure. We suggest checking out The Great River Road of Wisconsin! The entire WIGRR (wigrr.com) covers 250 miles and 33 river towns. We just hit the Driftless Region section, including the towns of: Alma, Nelson,  Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City.

Getting to Alma, WI:
88 miles from Decorah
60 miles from La Crosse
54 miles from Rochester
119 miles from McGregor

For over 250 miles of Wisconsin’s “West Coast” a ribbon or road flows next to the train tracks right along the Mighty Mississippi. The Great River Road is one of the Midwest’s most scenic road trips – it was even voted prettiest drive in the nation by the Huffington Post last year! Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the Great River Road in its entirety spans from Minnesota to Louisiana. Wisconsin’s section winds through 33 towns and countless sights, and this edition of Boxed (IN) takes on just the popular 30-mile stretch from Alma to Maiden Rock – just north of Trempealeau and the La Crosse area. Home to Lake Pepin – a popular 26-mile-long sailing area of the Mississippi River – this little slice of river is known for kitschy little stops, artist studios, galleries, and shops, and down-home charm.

AlmaStairsAlma itself is an adorable little river town tucked in and on 12 Mile Bluff – there are even 10 staircases (with over 750 steps total!) that connect the two main streets throughout the town! Lock and Dam #4 – including a great viewing platform – is also located here, and the lodging and dining options are fun and often unique since over 200 structures in the tiny town are on the National Register of Historic Places.

As you wind up the river through Nelson, Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City take time to seek out the many treasures and destinations tucked along the way. The terrain is beautiful – and the locals friendly. Follow our notes carefully, and call ahead if you are making the drive (or boat!) as many of the best spots we found are seasonal and only open certain days of the week. (Like A to Z’s Pizza on the farm!). That said, there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a day or two – and plenty of relaxing to be had just watching all that is the mighty Mississippi go by.

EVENTS THIS FALL

Flyway Film Festival
October 21-25, 2015
Pepin and Stockholm
www.flywayfilmfestival.org

Great River Road Wine Trail Holiday Harvest Wine & Food Festival
November 14-15, 2015. 10am-5pm
www.greatriverroadwinetrail.org/events

LANDMARKS

Lock & Dam #4, Alma, WI – Built in 1935, this structure is an attraction in its own right and the southern border of  “Lake” Pepin. Watch barges and river traffic lock through from the viewing platform or from local establishments, while trains ramble by right underneath the pedestrian bridge.viewfromlookout

Lake Pepin is a 26-mile-long section of the widest, naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River that stretches from Bay City on the north end to Alma and Lock & Dam #4 in the south. It is extremely popular for sailing, boating, and fishing, as well as bird and wildlife watching.

Great Alma Fishing Float
35 Great River Road, Alma
www.almafishingfloat.com
Park and walk to the dock where a shuttle boat will pick you up and deliver you to the float! For over 25 years this has been a local favorite – Float Café open 7am-3pm, and bunk lodging is even available on the float. Minnesota or Wisconsin Fishing license is required.

Buena Vista Park, Overlook, and Trail – Alma
Just above Lock & Dam #4 in Alma (500 ft. above to be more exact), is one of the best views of the Mississippi River valley anywhere. Better Homes & Gardens called it “…one of the river valley’s finest natural balconies.” The view just down the road at Danzinger Winery isn’t too bad either!

Mossy Hollow Trails – Alma
In 1997 Dairyland Power Cooperative transferred 102 acres just south of Alma to the City. This property extends 12 miles up the bluff and provides hiking/walking trails along with some great views.

EAT & DRINK

ALMA:

The Good View Bakery
105 South Main Street, Alma
https://www.facebook.com/goodviewbakery
Step through the screen door and be transported to the bakery you remember from childhood. Donuts, scones, rolls, breads, cookies, and all very reasonably priced! Grab a cup of coffee and a delicious caramel roll and plan your day one of the vintage counter stools.KiehlsOutside

Pier 4 Café and Smokehouse
600 Main Street, Alma
www.pier4cafe.com
Best BBQ by a Dam Site!
(Closed Tuesdays) open Wednesday through Monday 6 am to 1 pm
Great breakfasts and lunch including lots of house made BBQ goodness. The German potato pancakes are a local favorite, as is the house made “Tangys” sauce! Views from the café are of Lock & Dam #4, and the back patio is a great place to take in all the river traffic.

NELSON:

The Original Nelson Cheese Factory
S237 State Road 35 South, Nelson
www.nelsoncheese.com
Although cheese is no longer actually made at this facility, the selection of fine cheese, wine, prepared foods, and sweets is stunning. So is the interior of the facility – stop by to pick up supplies for a picnic or grab sandwiches and sit on the patio.NelsonCreameryOut

PEPIN:

Villa Bellezza
1420 3rd St., Pepin
www.villabellezza.com
Inspired by the beauty of the Pepin area and several classic Italian influences, Villa Bellezza was opened to the public by the Dahlen family in 2012. The first grape vines at Villa Bellezza were planted a decade previous, and their wines are pushing the typical boundaries and quality of Midwestern viticulture. The Cotes du Pepin is a highlight, as are the event facilities.Winery

Harbor View Café
314 First Street, Pepin
www.harborviewpepin.com
Closed Monday – Wednesday
This much-celebrated local café has a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. As comfy a spot as you’ll find, with fantastic people, great daily specials, and amazing deserts. No reservations, but the Adirondack chairs out front have a spectacular view and there’s New Glarus on tap if you have to wait!

STOCKHOLM:

Stockholm Pie Company
www.thestockholmpiecompany.com
The Stockholm Pie Company sits unassumingly in a tiny corner space (next door to the beautiful Abode Gallery and below Wide Spot Performing Arts Center.) The pie is the real deal and you won’t be sorry with the selection, which rotates daily. In fact, plan ahead to grab breakfast or lunch and take an extra slice along for your trip to A to Z later in the day (see below)! YES – Pie isn’t just for breakfast anymore!

PizzaFarmScene

A to Z Produce and Bakery
N2945 Anker Lane, Stockholm
www.atozproduceandbakery.com
Pizza nights are TUESDAYS ONLY 4:30 – 8 pm (March-October)
So here’s the idea: Vegetable and CSA farmers A to Z build a brick oven (actually two) and make pizza one night a week on their farm. People come from all around, bring blankets and supplies, and make a night of it! What happens? Wild success – and long lines of pizza lovers! We can’t stress a few things enough though – really. Go early, write down directions (phones/GPS sketchy), bring games or good friends (or make friends with your neighbors), extra snacks, pie from the Stockholm Pie Company, and beverages (but the state of WI “does not allow carry in alcoholic beverages”…  beer and wine for sale on site). Some people even set up tables and chairs, but you decide just how far you want to take it.

They appreciate checks and cash (bring extra – there’s often bread for sale as well –  it’s worth it!) but also now accept credit cards. The results of all this? Stunning pizza in a lovely rural setting that makes for an incredible evening. Plan to go here if you’re in town on a Tuesday evening – you will not be disappointed (unless you don’t take our tips from above!). Serving through October – bundle up and enjoy!

PizzaFarmSlicePizza

Maiden Rock Apples / Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery
W12266 King Lane, Stockholm
www.maidenrockapples.com
Since 2000 Herdie Baisden and Carol Wiersma have been growing apples on their 80-acre farm. From Honeycrisp to Pomme Gris, the varieties are wide and interesting – and you can pick right from the fields in the fall. But the real draw may be the cider – both still and sparkling – Maiden Rock is doing some amazing work with their apples. Give yourself some time for a tasting, and savor the local bounty!

MAIDEN ROCK:

Maiden Rock Creamery/McNays Wine and Coffee Bar
W3487 State Road 35,
maidenrockcreamery.com
This remodeled, once-upon-a-time creamery now features two incredible lofts (available by the night) and a Coffee/Wine Bar.

Smiling Pelican Bake Shop
W3556 Hwy. 35, Maiden Rock
www.facebook.com/Smiling-Pelican-Bakeshop
Weekends ONLY.
This little bakery is one of the best you’ll find. Yep, that was a period. House made Panna Cotta, amazing pies, cakes, cookies, breads – and only on the weekends, April through December.

BAY CITY:

Ice Cream: Flat Pennies in Bay City
www.flatpennies.com
10:30 am – 9 pm
Drive in and grab a quick coffee – or perhaps a dog and an ice cream cone! This Bay City favorite is a roadside oasis from yesteryear. Chat with the friendly owner – he might talk you into trying a Ramblin’ Rudy or the Flat Cow!

IceCreamSandwich

Chef Shack
www.chefshack.org
Weekends only
Award-winning Minneapolis Food-Truckers opened this amazing little spot in 2012. It’s only open Friday-Saturday nights and Sundays for Brunch, but worth every second it takes to make your way there. Creative, delicious, ever-changing cuisine and wine/beer, plus a brick oven in the back yard. It’s pretty much the restaurant you’ve always wanted to stumble upon…

SNOOZE
It is worth noting that the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River is heavily traveled by freight trains – both day and night. Any lodging anywhere near the river will give you both grand vistas of river life, as well as of the working trains. Some folks love the steady, majestic, rumble and horns of a freight train – while others may find it hard to block out. That said, pack an extra pair of earplugs and your sense of adventure – this is river life.

Blue Door Inn, Alma
331 South Main Street, Alma
www.bluedoorinnalma.com
This 150-year-old renovated stone building features tastefully modern suites in historic spaces. The Inn can accommodate single rooms for a night, or combined suites for larger groups. The upper deck has fun views of Main Street and the Mississippi, while the garden level is a lovely escape full of well-tended flowers. The kind innkeeper, Kathy, even leaves Bakery treats for breakfast outside your door, along with juice and fruit to accompany your in-room Keurig!

Hotel de Ville, Alma
305 North Main Street, Alma
612-423-3653
sites.google.com/site/hoteldevillealma/
Do check out this unique European-influenced getaway with Italianate secret garden and Mississippi River views. With three buildings and a gypsy wagon making up the property, it’s shy of words to say the de Ville is wonderfully unique. The on-site café and ice cream shop is just the beginning of wonderment that leads to the secret gardens out back.

Maiden Rock Inn
N531 County Road S, Maiden Rock
www.maidenrockinn.com
Gary and Jennifer Peterson started renovating this century old schoolhouse in 1995 and have never stopped. The attention to detail in woodwork, renovation, and hospitality is hard to match. With over 16,000 square feet of skillfully and artistically renovated spaces, including four guest suites with impeccable 12-foot vintage tin ceilings, an outdoor grotto, rooftop deck (Accessed by spiral staircase! And there’s a hot tub up there!), and the original gymnasium, this is a show stopper of an Inn.