Good Food means food that is:

Healthy - It provides nourishment and enables people to thrive

Green - It was produced in a manner that is environmentally sustainable

Fair - No one along the production line was exploited for its creation

Affordable - All people have access to it

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eastern U.P. Gets Its Food Summit On!


Farmers, grocers, teachers, restaurateurs and local government leaders from the Eastern Upper Peninsula huddled together Nov. 10 in Sault Ste. Marie to talk local food economy. 

They celebrated the fact that Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties have a long and bountiful agricultural history, and that many new farms are growing in that self-determined land between the Mackinac Bridge and the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge to Canada.

Putting that past and present together for a future of good food and profitable farming in their rural communities was the topic for the day. They were not the least bit fazed the region's short growing season or sparse population. The sentiment throughout the day was one of: “We're a small community, and we know how to work together.”


“I take barter, too,” added Steve Twardy as an example, regarding his willingness as co-owner of Harmony Health Foods in Sault Ste. Marie to work with farms in the region. “Packing and distribution is also an area where I feel we could work with farmers to share the burden of getting product to the store,” he said.

About 50 area food and farm leaders attended the Eastern U.P. Local Food Summit, organized by the Eastern Upper Peninsula Food Hub project, the Chippewa County Conservation District and Michigan State University Extension.

It was a day of celebrating a full plate of activities and initiatives around healthy and local food in the eastern U.P. and beyond. It was also a day of planning next steps toward a U.P. future in which healthy diets are common, and farming is a busy, profitable part of rural life.

Some highlights of existing work that Summit participants celebrated include:
  • More than 1,000 people attending an August Breakfast on the Farm event.
  • A new local foods issue of the area’s Homegrown magazine.
  • Seven farmers’ markets in three Eastern U.P. counties, including a winter extension of the Sault Ste. Marie market at the Bayliss Public Library.
  • The Marquette Food Coop and its role as a market for farms and an educational resource for everyone. Projects include the U.P. Farm Directory and the Marquette Hoophouse project.
  • A major Centers for Disease Control grant to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians that will support development of local food councils and other health initiatives. 

Upcoming steps toward uniting the Eastern and entire U.P. on food and farming opportunities include:
  • The “U.P. Agricultural Assessment,” which a coalition of groups will release in early January. The project has collected data about farmers and farming in the U.P. along with videos and close-up interviews of agricultural entrepreneurs. Contact Marquette Food Coop outreach director Natasha Lantz for more: 906.225.0671 ext.11, <outreach@marquettefood.coop>.
  • Regional food hub discussions both in the Eastern U.P. and at the Marquette Food Coop as a central point for the entire U.P. The Marquette Food Coop is preparing to expand, and its most likely location could include teaching space and a small warehouse and distribution area, said general manager Matt Gougeon.
With one-third the land area of Michigan, but just 3 percent of its population, the U.P. — separated by climate and the Straits of Mackinac from the rest of the state — has some special challenges. But from the enthusiasm and confidence in the room at the Summit, the “Yoopers” are not bothered. 

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