AP -- One best-selling book advocating fresh, local foods is shaking up America's Dairyland.

Students across University of Wisconsin-Madison's campus, organic grocers, scientists, and dairy farmers large and small have jumped into the debate on how food is produced and eaten. The discussions started last month when the university began giving Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food," free to all incoming freshmen and school officials urged professors to use it in class.

"I have not seen the students this excited about something in years," Irwin Goodman, a horticulture professor who is vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences said of the buzz on campus about Pollan's field-to-table philosophies.

The book urges readers to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" and criticizes food companies and scientists for replacing traditional foods with unhealthier, highly processed substitutes and confusing consumers with health claims.

Pollan's work has been used on college campuses from the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a journalism professor, to ColumbiaUniversity in New York City for courses ranging from science journalism to environmental politics. But the program at UW-Madison is unique because the book and related topics are being discussed everywhere from French and political science courses to an exhibit on the history of food. And Pollan is to speak at the 17,000-seat KohlCenter Thursday in the liberal college town.

Kelsey Ward, an 18-year-old freshman from Naperville, Ill., said she's talked about the book in chemistry and diversity classes, and with her roommate, a food science major.

"It's really cool how they've connected everyone on campus through this project," she said. The book, which earlier this year won the James Beard Foundation Award for best food writing, has prompted her to eat more salads and fewer processed foods.

But not everyone is so excited.

Bill Bruins, who has a dairy farm near Waupun and is president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, called the book "a direct attack on the way we farm today." His group is working with the university to have farmers go into classrooms to present their points of view.

"Pollan has narrow and elitist ideas about how you should eat and how farmers should (or shouldn't) feed a hungry and growing world," Bruins wrote on the farm bureau's Web site.

Another critic, John Lucey, is a UW-Madison professor and food scientist. Pollan blames food scientists for replacing food with "nutrients," and Lucey wrote on a university Web site that scientists have helped preserve foods longer, improved food safety and cut meal preparation time for busy parents.

UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin started the "Go Big Read" program, in which the campus is asked to read the same book, and hopes it becomes a tradition. She was involved with a similar project for several years as provost at CornellUniversity.

She said she picked "In Defense of Food" because it covered several topical national issues. And as a bonus, Pollan was already planning to visit campus.

After facing criticism for picking Pollan, Martin has spoken to agricultural groups, hosted farmers at her u