Story by Maddy Baroli
Early in my time here, Heather Ratliff, one of my supervisors and co-chair of the NWMI Food and Farming Network, explained something very essential to me, “In the national movement of food system change, the thing that sets Michigan apart from everywhere else is collaboration. We have networks of networks. Northern Michigan is the heart of this statewide model, as the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network partners work together despite potential for competition— we realize that we’re all working towards the same mission of reinventing a localized food system.” This sentiment really stuck with me. As the new Americorps VISTA for the network, it helped set the stage for my year of service catalyzing positive change within the food and farming community of this region.
A few weeks after this conversation, I experienced firsthand the commitment to collaboration that Heather spoke of. We had our first network meeting of the season, and I witnessed about twenty folks from a range of different organizations and backgrounds come together to share successes, goals, and opportunities within the food system. I was impressed when one woman presented a grant and specifically requested partners in the process, stating that she did not wish to exclude others from the potential funding. This sort of emphasis on the collective is at the heart of the Food and Farming Network, and creates strong and friendly bonds between members. Everyone seemed energized and motivated after the meeting, with various new ideas and tasks bred out of our meeting of the minds. Continue reading
“Before the reward, there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy.” – Ralph Ransom
The abundance of northern Michigan’s many riches is never more apparent than now. The approaching fall demands that farmers set our tables with the literal fruits of their summer’s labor. Visit one of our local farmers markets and be ready for an impressive diversity of locally grown crops. Take a ride down any one of our scenic rural roads and pass by dozens of farms and roadside vegetable stands. Some, like Gallagher’s Farm Market on M72 or Friske’s on US 31, are full-fledged stores with professional staff. I dare you to leave either of these places without a full pie in hand and a smile on your face.
Or it means asparagus. Or it could mean strawberries, peaches and blueberries; corn; milk and beef, pork, honey and eggs, rhubarb, tomatoes, herbs, hops … the list goes on.
Despite our label as the Cherry Capital, the region’s food harvest clearly is more than one famed fruit. And not only are all of these things grown or produced here, they’re often canned, bottled, dried, baked, brewed and — perhaps most importantly — turned into ice cream. They’re sold at farm markets and restaurants, roadside stands, supermarkets and wineries. Thousands of visitors travel here every year at least in part to buy these products, visit wineries and farm markets, and eat and drink at restaurants, wineries and breweries that specialize in our local harvests.
The work that farmers and others do to market their harvest directly to consumers through processing or direct retail sales is known by many names: food innovation, agri-business or agricultural entrepreneurism, for starters. Whatever the term used, these activities contribute millions of dollars annually to the economy.
And they mean big opportunities for farm profitability, job creation and business expansion. Because demand for local food is growing, farms and businesses throughout the region are increasing their bottom line by marketing and selling their products directly to consumers or local retail outlets. The region is home to hundreds of farms that are successfully serving local markets, processing produce into “value-added” products like jam or pies, or offering tourist attractions like corn mazes or tasting rooms.
Access the rest of the June 26, 2016 article on the Record-Eagle website, here.
Interested in supporting local food economies or suppliers? Regional resources are available online at www.networksnorthwest.org/planning, www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org, or www.tastethelocaldifference.org.
Sarah Lucas is regional planning department manager for Networks Northwest.
The Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network (FFN) yesterday announced eight mini seed grants to organizations in the local food system. FFN’s partners at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and the Northsky Nonprofit Network provided funds for this program via Networks Northwest, the Regional Prosperity Initiative, and Rotary Charities.
“I congratulate the grant recipients for their creative projects which help the network accomplish its goals,” said FFN co-leader Bill Palladino. “These investments Continue reading
by Juliana Lisuk
Feeding America® estimates that in 2014, 14 percent of households in the United States were “food insecure”— they did not have access to a sufficient level of affordable and nutritious food. At the same time, 25 percent to 40 percent of all food grown, processed, and transported within the U.S. is never consumed.
Numerous organizations are taking action to capture the food that would otherwise go Continue reading
It’s asparagus season and I recently noticed a Taste the Local Difference sign over the Tom’s East Bay display of this seasonal goodness. The asparagus was grown on the Lutz family farm in Kaleva. Turns out Tom’s has made a big commitment to buying locally grown produce for their five stores through direct relationships with farmers and local distributor Cherry Capital Foods. Continue reading
Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network (FFN) Business Meeting
May 18, 2016, 10:30-noon
In Attendance: Amanda Kik of Crosshatch, Brian Bourdages of Tamarack Holdings, Carol Danly of the Food and Farming Network, Elise Crafts of Networks Northwest, Heather Ratliff of Cherry Capital Foods, Juliana Lisuk of SEEDS, Kelly Lively of Cherry Capital Foods, Margaret Sheets of Taste the Local Difference, Meghan McDermott of Groundwork, Mollie Thomas of Crosshatch, Rick Gleason of Farm Bureau, Rod Robinson of Eaton B Goode, Sarah Eichberger of MSU-E (remote), Scott Smith of Local Food Alliance (remote), Sharron May of The May Farm (remote), Stephanie Cumper of FoodCorps, Steve Nance of Oryana, Tasha Lapinski of Baker College-Cadillac & consultant, Tricia Phelps of Taste the Local Difference, Val Stone of Northwest Food Coalition/Goodwill/Salvation Army, Wendy Wieland of MSU-E
⦁ Consider printing FFN business cards and postcards with meeting/action team/website info for use by active members. (carried over)
⦁ URGENT: Reach out to Dr. Benishek to let him know Continue reading
Here is Sharron May’s Lakes to Land Regional Initiative: Farm and Food System Assessment presentation.~~~Our guest panelists were:
Sarah Lucas, Networks Northwest Regional Planning Department Manager, email@example.com, 231-929-5034
Betsy Evans, Alliance for Economic Success Business Development Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharron May, Lakes to Land Regional Initiative, email@example.com~~~Other links:
A follow-up to Wednesday’s Economic Development meeting. Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control the next S.E.T. meeting needs to be moved to Monday, May 9th from 1:00pm-4:00pm. Continue reading