The local food movement is a force moving across the country. Here in our own state, Michigan State University Extension has been a big part of that movement.
Three local food summits recently took place in each region of the Upper Peninsula. “Together at the Table: Recipes for a Sustainable Local Food System” took place Nov. 5 in Houghton (western), Nov. 6 in Marquette (central) and Nov. 7 in Sault Ste. Marie (eastern). This was the third summit for the eastern U.P. and the first in central and western U.P.
The U.P. Food Exchange put on the summits. The exchange, a collaborative partnership between MSU Extension and the Marquette Food Co-op, connects local food activity within each of the U.P.’s three regions and coordinates local food efforts between the regions. It was created in November 2012 with funds from a Regional Food Systems Grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
MSU Extension educator Michelle Walk co-leads the U.P. Food Exchange initiative with Natasha Lantz of the Marquette Food Co-op.
Each of the three U.P. regions has its own steering committee to coordinate activities specific to each region, and each committee had input into the overall format of the summits. Committee members identified local speakers for the panel portions and local topics for the table discussions.
Keynote speaker at all three summits was Ken Meter, president of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis and food system analyst.
“The summits are a culmination of some of the work we are doing across the U.P. in local foods,” said Michelle. “We were able to work with Ken Meter on the economic impact study under the Regional Food Systems Grant we received from MDARD last fall.”
The summits included 75 participants in Houghton, 135 in Marquette and 71 in Sault Ste. Marie.
“All three summits had participation from farmers, schools, health departments, chambers, restaurants, agencies (such as conservation districts and the USDA), elected officials of local, state and federal offices, interested consumers, retail outlets, tribes and many more stakeholders,” said Michelle, who presented at the summits.
The summits promoted ways to expand the local food market – through selling at farmers markets, expanding the customer base to include local institutions such as schools and hospitals, and extending the growing season with hoop houses. Strengthening the local food system strengthens the local economy.
The media took notice of the summits’ importance. Local news covered all three events.
Watch this video from ABC10 about the Houghton summit: http://abc10U.P..com/u-p-food-exchange-meetings-week/
Watch this video from Fox TV6 about the Marquette summit:
http://www.uppermichiganssource.com/news/story.aspx?id=968231#.UpyGU7Uo7KI (Search for “food summit.” Then choose “Supporting Local Foods.”)
Watch this video from 9&10 News about the Sault Ste. Marie summit: http://www.9and10news.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9503989
Below is just one of the many local news articles that covered the events:
Sault Ste. Marie location in the Soo Evening News: http://www.sooeveningnews.com/article/20131108/NEWS/131109418/0/SEARCH
Thanks for your leadership, Michelle!