Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network Report to the Community
By Bill Palladino, Michigan Land Use Institute
Northwest Lower Michigan has an active community of individuals, farmers, nonprofit organizations, and businesses working together to advance the impact of the region’s agricultural resources. Since 2009, this community has come together once a month under the guise of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network (FFN). The purpose of the group was defined in 2010 when it adopted a set of goals and objectives formulated by the Michigan Good Food Charter.
The Northwest Michigan FFN reworded each of the Michigan Good Food Charter’s main tenets to suit the specific needs of the Northwest region. Over the past two years, the network has focused its agenda on these goals with an emphasis on measuring the outcomes of its work and that of its partners. On March 13, 2015, the network hosted its seventh annual Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network Seeds of Prosperity Summit. The 2015 summit featured the presentation of the annual Chapman Award, its popular rapid-fire updates from around the region, and the debut of its first annual “Report to the Community”
The report is a compendium of stories from across the network’s coverage area. It includes 53 narratives submitted by 45 authors and details the work being done to accomplish the network’s goals. The report starts with a congratulatory letter to the network from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, current ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and ends with a list of more than 150 organizations tied to the work presented in the report. The stories are organized and color-coded to match the network’s overall goal and its five objectives:
By 2020, the region’s food and farming systems are more resilient and provide at least 20% of our region’s food.
OBJECTIVES BY 2020:
- Northwest Michigan farmers will supply 20% of all the region’s institutional, retailer, and consumer food purchases.
- Northwest Michigan institutions will source 20% of their food product from Northwest Michigan growers, producers, and processors.
- Northwest Michigan will generate new agri-food businesses at a rate that enables 20% of food purchased in the region to come from the region.
- 100% of northwest Michigan residents will have access to an ample, high-quality, healthy, and culturally diverse diet, 20% of which comes from the region.
- Northwest Michigan’s farmland and associated water and energy resources will be available and affordable in order to build and maintain a long-term, sustainable business environment for diverse local agriculture and food production.
There are stories about the history of the food and farming network; local food businesses plowing the way for a burgeoning food economy; farm guilds helping to glue together the working knowledge of farmers located hundreds of miles apart; new programs to help fund agri-businesses in the region; innovative food security programs; and stories on the importance of preserving the natural resource base that is the foundation of northwest Michigan’s food and farming success.
The report documents the extraordinary work being done by the group’s many partners, and marks the beginning of the network’s efforts to measure the results of its work. In the report’s introduction, the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network co-chair Rob Sirrine described the group as “truly a network” and added “The ties that bind us mainly go unseen, but the nodes of activity are broad and deep. This document is designed to showcase these connections and articulate the vast amount of work being done in all corners of our region, which makes up 4,722.5 square miles of the state.”
The report was printed in limited quantities, but is available to view and download via its host, the Michigan Land Use Institute, at www.mlui.org/ffn2015. You can stay updated on the network’s activities on their website, www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org.