While the rest of the country focuses on turkey for Thanksgiving, Sharon Moen is hooked on fish.
As the new outreach specialist for the Eat Wisconsin Fish initiative, she plans to share her enthusiasm for aquatic edibles with consumers throughout the state.
“If people knew the amount of fish I ate, they’d be shocked. But that’s not why I’m qualified for this position,” Moen said, quoting her cover letter for the job.
The Twin Ports woman also brings 21 years of experience working with Minnesota Sea Grant to the table.
Wisconsin Sea Grant launched the Eat Wisconsin Fish initiative in 2013, but hasn’t had a manager overseeing it since 2016, according to Marie Zhuikov, science communicator for the Lake Superior district. Federal COVID-19 funding was available to bring back the position for a year. Zhuikov said they hope to extend the position with additional grants.
Moen plans to fine-tune the initiative and improve its reach. Half the job will involve working with producers to ensure they have the tools to succeed; the other half will focus on outreach to consumers.
"I would love to know your favorite recipes and information about what you’d like to see on the website," Moen said.
Some people may perceive fish as hard to cook; others may not look beyond traditional tuna and salmon to more local options; and price may be an obstacle to some consumers. Moen aims to break down those barriers by featuring recipes, highlighting the health benefits of Wisconsin fish, raising awareness of statewide aquaculture and more.
Moen said Hixton-based Superior Fresh, for example, is the largest aquaculture operation in the Midwest. The business produces more than a million pounds of salmon a year, as well as organic greens through aquaponics, a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Aquaculture is a $21 million dollar industry in the state, according to Wisconsin Sea Grant.
Lake Superior fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which can lower the risk for some chronic diseases and protect heart health, according to the National Institutes of Health. And fish just makes you feel good after eating it, Moen said.
“I cannot imagine not eating fish. At times in my life I’ve tried to be a vegetarian …. but fish are just too yummy,” Moen said.
It is also the perfect food for the microwave. Four minutes in the microwave, a squirt of lemon, some salt and pepper and it’s ready, Zhuikov said.
If you want to know where your food is coming from and what kind of food chain led it to your table, Wisconsin fish offer a clear view. Just look out at Lake Superior.
In addition to helming the Eat Wisconsin Fish initiative, Moen is a local potter. At FalconFire Pottery, she creates nature-themed vessels and tiles for German masonry stoves called kachelofen and spins ideas for tweaking the program.
"Some people get their ideas in the shower. I get my ideas in the studio," Moen said.
Her key message to the public is that eating Wisconsin fish is easy and healthy. It’s also fresh and local.
Bayfield County is home to Bodin, Halvorson, Craig Hoopman and Everett fisheries, which provide fresh, frozen and smoked whitefish, lake trout, cisco, burbot and more. Red Cliff Fish Co. opened its doors this month in Bayfield, as well.
“If you have a hankering for fresh fish out of Lake Superior, I’d call all of your local markets beforehand,” Moen said. "We're lucky to have access to some incredible Great Lakes fish in the Duluth/Superior area."
Super One Foods, Mount Royal and Cub Foods carry Wisconsin fish, she said, and Everett’s smoked fish can be found all around the community. Smoked fish can compliment any dinner, even Thanksgiving.
“Save a turkey, eat a fish,” Moen said.
Everyone is invited to share their fish recipes and give feedback on what information they'd like to see on the Eat Wisconsin Fish website via social media, email at email@example.com or by calling 218-624-5735.