Salted with Sharks

Don’t Care Where You Get Your Appetite, as Long as You Eat Locally

In The Mess Deck on November 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

The local food movement has made its way to Northern Michigan. You may be asking yourself, “What is the local food movement?” In a nutshell, it is a locally based effort to make food grown and processed locally available for purchase. So instead of your food traveling via container ship from a foreign country 3,000 miles away, you buy food that was grown in your own neighborhood by a local farmer. By purchasing locally, you stimulate the local economy while obtaining food that is often grown organically, without any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. You also reduce the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment. Less transportation means we use less energy to get food from farm to market, which saves money, energy and the planet all in one process.

Did You Know?

According to the USDA, agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry.  It is a $1 billion a year industry that employs more than 12,800 people. There are more than 56,000 farms in Michigan—more than half of them small farms that make less than $10,000 per year. Michigan has many microclimates which support the growth of more than 200 food and fiber products, making Michigan the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation (after California—you knew we had something in common with them besides surfing).

Michigan farmers lead the nation in production of tart cherries, pickling cucumbers, squash and vegetable bedding plants. They rank second in production of beans, celery, and plums and third in apples and asparagus. Michigan dairy farmers produce almost 8 million gallons of milk each year, ranking 7th in the nation.  With over 10 million acres of land dedicated to agriculture and almost 9 million tons of fresh produce grown each year, no wonder Michiganders are starting to go local with their food purchases, thus becoming a locavores! (You can read more ag facts at the USDA’s Agriculture in the Classroom site.)

Bringing Home the Rutabagas

So how can you become a locavore?  Start by visiting the local farmer’s markets in Elberta and Frankfort. Elberta’s has sadly shut down for the year, but Frankfort’s is still up and running, located inside the toasty warm Recreation Center on 9th and Main. This weekend found some of the area’s best vendors there, selling fresh ginger (grown in Michigan!) and braising greens, jarred carrot and beet sauerkraut, Creation Farm soaps and unguents, jewelry and naturally dyed scarves, jam, bread, sustainable meat and eggs, and delicious apples. By doing your shopping at the market, you’re supporting local farmers and keeping your money in Michigan (it’ll come back around to you faster that way).

Become familiar with what produce is grown locally and plan on visiting some local roadside markets as well.  Get active with Grow Benzie (http://www.growbenzie.org).  Sign up to for their newsletter or volunteer to help out at their site located at 5885 M-115 (Frankfort Highway) in Benzonia. Grow Benzie puts on educational programs for local kids and also provides fresh produce to needy families in the area. You can also visit Michigan Land Use Institute’s site http://www.mlui.org and find out more about local farms and farming. If you have a specific product you’re looking for (or one to offer), check out Taste the Local Difference’s local food exchange forum at http://localdifference.org/forum

Maybe you will become inspired to start your own garden next summer and jump on board the Northern Michigan local food movement. —Michele Cannaert

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