Kalkaska Food Summit: ‘The Importance of Local’

Story by Maddy Baroli

The Kalkaska Food Summit took place on Wednesday, March 15 at the Kalkaska Stonehouse— a hub for community events on the grounds of the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center. The Livewell Kalkaska coalition, a group of public health professionals, organized the event in collaboration with the Food and Farming Network.

Last spring, several substantial grants were awarded with funding through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. District Health Department #10 (DHD 10) received the funds and administered them to local organizations with ideas on how to enable healthy lifestyles in the community. The grant recipients’ work was notable, and Kalkaska’s first food summit was created to shine a spotlight on their efforts.


Continue reading

March Study Session at the Father Fred Foundation

Story by Maddy Baroli

For the Network’s March study session, we took a trip to the Father Fred Foundation. Father Fred has been serving our region since 1989 and provides basic food, clothing, housing and financial assistance at no charge. With light staffing (six full-time and two part-time) and the help of 225 active volunteers, they can invest 93 cents of every dollar donated in guest services (wow!)


The group explores Father Fred’s food pantry. An abundant fresh food section meant to imitate a farmer’s market is featured right where guests walk in.

Providing access to quality food has become a focal point at Father Fred. Operations Director Les Hagaman has been leading the way in promoting healthy food at their pantry— from educational signage and smart choices about what to stock, to an on-site vegetable garden originally planted by local Foodcorps members.

Continue reading

Brian Bates’ Keynote Address: Part 3, Why Bother With Local?

Editor’s Note:
This is Part Three of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year. 
In Part One: On Becoming A Farmer, Bates describes some of the influences in his life that led him to become an organic farmer.  In Part Two: Scale and Perspective, he details an eye-opening journey that took him to a variety of farms around the world, learning what he could about the differences that scale makes in farming practices. Here, Bates concludes with the reward he finds-and thinks we can all find- in contributing to and celebrating our rich local food system.

Part 3: Why Bother With Local?

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 11.33.51 PM

I think prosperity is defined by a community’s well-being. At Bear Creek, we are invested in our community and hopefully our community in us. We won’t relocate our factory tomorrow, and in the meantime, we shop locally, bank locally, insure locally, employ locally. We teach others how to grow, and we welcome strangers to our farm. We celebrate the deliciousness of our food, and we respond precisely to the needs of our community. Growing food 52 weeks of the year is not easy this far north, but it’s what our community craves. So we do it. We work to weave our business and our livelihood into the fabric of our community. And perhaps most incredibly, it only takes a small percentage of our community to sustain our business.

Continue reading

Brian Bates’ Keynote Address: Part 2, Scale and Perspective

Editor’s Note:
This is Part Two of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year. 
In Part One: On Becoming A Farmer, Bates describes some of the influences in his life that led him to become an organic farmer.  In this Part Two, he details an eye-opening journey that took him to a variety of farms around the world, learning what he could about the differences that scale makes in farming practices. And that, all in all, the farmers he worked with are not that different than him!

Part Two: Scale and Perspective

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 10.57.20 PM.png

We used to drive to the beach every year on the 4th of July and pass through the vast cornfields of Delaware. You may not have expected me to say Delaware, being that we’re in the Midwest, but at a certain scale, we become numb to the scale regardless of size – more on that later.

Here’s the thing.

Continue reading

Brian Bates’ Keynote Address: Part 1, Becoming a Farmer

Part 1 of 3 excerpts from the Keynote Address that Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm presented at our 2017 Farm Route to Prosperity Summit. Stay tuned for more- Part 2 will be released on Friday!

So why am I here? I’m here to share a little about me, a little about our farm, a lot about our food system, why we’re screwed (just kidding!), and why I think small actions make a big difference.

First, a little about me. I am a DMV native (that’s DC, MD, VA) and I am gradually becoming OF Northern Michigan.

How many people saw Mr. Palladino’s awesome speech at the Small Farms Conference last month? The idea of being from somewhere, and OF somewhere has really stuck with me. I love it.

I moved to Petoskey 5 years ago. I’m 27 years old. And I’m obsessed with keeping things in perspective.


Continue reading

2017 Chapman Award

For Immediate Release
Date: February 23rd, 2017
Contact: Bill Palladino bill@localdifference.org (877)562-2539 

2017 Chapman Award Presented to Shetler Family Dairy

Traverse City, MI: George and Sally Shetler, dairy farmers from Kalkaska, Michigan, were presented with the prestigious Chapman Award on Friday, February 17th.  The award, presented as part of the Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit, is given each year to an individual or group that contributes to the advancement of agriculture in Northwest Michigan.

The Chapman Award is named after John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. The dedication reads, “Given each year to the person that shows unerring dedication, enduring fortitude, and embodies the exceptional pioneering spirit that is remaking American agriculture right here in Northwest Michigan.”

Nominations for the Chapman Award are taken throughout the year. The leadership team of the Food and Farming Network selects the winner in time for their annual summit in February. The event features updates from a multitude of people working to enhance the vitality of local food and farming across the 10-county region. Every year since 2013, The Chapman Award has been presented at the conclusion of the summit.

At this year’s event, Bill Palladino co-chair of the Network, introduced the Shetlers as “…representing the clearest example of a new entrepreneurial agriculture necessary for the ongoing sustainability of the region’s food system. The Shetler’s leadership in farming, business, family and community has influenced thousands. There is no one more worthy of this award than George and Sally.”

The Shetler Family has been dairy farming in Kalkaska, Michigan since 1979, and has three generations living and working on their land. They practice a very hands-on managed grazing system and bottle and distribute their own milk to local stores in returnable glass bottles, along with butter and ice cream. The Shetler’s delicious and high-quality products reflect their passion for farming and their unique approach to business. In accepting the Chapman Award, George Shetler said, “Thank you for this honor, and we are also thankful for all the support of our loyal customers that believe in what we do.”

The Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network is a volunteer organization, based in Traverse City that works year-round to advance the food system in Northwest Michigan. For information about the Chapman Award, the Shetler Family Dairy, or the Network, visit the website,www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org.

The goal of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network is to build Northwest Michigan’s agricultural future by identifying areas of need throughout the region’s food system and coordinating action to address them.
Our strength is in facilitating synergies and communicating among the many people and organizations already at work changing our regional food system.

Continue reading

I’m Lovin’ It: Kids Learn to Market Local Foods in Photography Class

Story by Maddy Baroli

eat-local-2Imagine a local carrot. It has more flavor than anything you’ll find on a supermarket shelf. It has a crunch factor that rivals Doritos. It’s as fresh as Prince and you can buy it at a reasonable price. So why do its industrially farmed counterparts tend to sell better? Of the many answers to this question, one is as clear as the liquid crystals in your television screen: marketing and advertising. Large food corporations have ample resources devoted to reaching a broad customer base with compelling ads and flashy packaging.

Local FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall recently explored this topic in a lesson at Boyne Falls Public School. FoodCorps is a national nonprofit dedicated to connecting students with healthy foods through direct service in public classrooms. Service members provide hands-on lessons related to various aspects of our food system. Lindsay led high school photography students through a lesson with this central question: How is food marketed and what implications does this have on the products we buy and where they come from? Continue reading

Agriculture Forum: Affordable Housing Not Just a Downtown Problem

Story by Maddy Baroli

maddybaroliConsider the range of challenges to agriculture in our region. Invasive pest management? Sure. The daunting ripple effects of climate change? Certainly. But what about the lack of affordable housing for the people who make our regional food system tick? It’s not an issue most immediately associate with local agriculture.

In Traverse City, we have a strong tourist economy that attracts “foodies” and employs seasonal workers. We also have a permanent community that dedicates itself to creating a soulful and resilient regional food system.

This tension between transience and sustainability in our agricultural workforce, in addition to below-average wages, presents a conundrum that existing housing solutions fail to address. Continue reading

Successful Season for Kalkaska Farmer’s Market and Call for Vendors

Story by Maddy Baroli

It was a beautiful summer for Kalkaska’s new series of farmer’s markets! A sunny stroll through Railroad Square on a Tuesday afternoon would greet community members with trinity-roseten unique vendors of local goods and produce, such as Trinity Rose Jams and Jellies, Shetler Dairy, Grand Traverse Culinary Oils and Flours, and Nev’R Done Farm.

The market ran weekly from May 24 through October 11, under the management of Mike Oosterhart and Cash Cook. It grew steadily in popularity as the months went on. Farm to Table ads that promoted the farmers market and local foods ran on WTCM FM and AM, and in The Voice newspaper. Grant funding provided to the LiveWell Kalkaska coalition from District Health Department #10 and the Northwest Michigan Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition paid for the ad campaign. Continue reading

Sowing Seeds for the Future: The Potential for a Food and Farming Housing Cooperative

Story by Maddy Baroli

A cooperative living community of farm workers, food service employees, culinary students, agri-business entrepreneurs, and other local food and farming partners could address the intersection of several problems and potentials related to affordable housing in our region. This living community would be open to anyone involved in or serious about getting involved with local food work, and could help lay the foundation for a new generation of farmers.  Continue reading