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

The Misty Acres Pasture Walk

Story by Maddy Baroli

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The evening of the Misty Acres Pasture Walk was as gorgeous as autumn gets. As I pulled up to a rolling pasture dotted with stoic cattle and lined with glowing trees in all shades of yellow and red, I was impressed by the size of the crowd that had come to learn about this operation. The Misty Acres Farm is not your average cattle ranch; it is located just outside of Benzonia, Michigan on a nature preserve owned and managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy which operates it as an experiment in raising high-quality grass-fed beef.

Beginning Reflections

Story by Maddy Baroli

maddy-haley 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 competitionwe 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

Reaping What Farmers Have Sown

“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.

Continue reading