Salted with Sharks

What’s Eating the Local Food Movement?

In Breaking, Calendar, Education, On and off the Apron, The Mess Deck, Uncategorized on December 3, 2012 at 3:21 am

By Emily Votruba

EVENT Tuesday, December 4. The Northern Michigan Culinary Arts Community invites the public to a talk by Patty Cantrell, “Local Food: A Prescription for National Healing.” With free, locally sourced appetizers made by SEEDS kids and some of our area’s most talented chefs. 7 pm to 8:30 pm at the Frankfort Rec Center, across from the Frankfort Laundromat. 

It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home, the saying goes.

So why don’t you get more of your food from northern Michigan/Benzie County/Elberta producers? Serious question.

Maybe you’ve found it’s a lot more expensive. Maybe you haven’t found the items you want or need. Maybe you haven’t been able to find locally grown food at all.

For whatever reason, it’s crazy, says Patty Cantrell, “that it’s easier for a farm to send potatoes halfway around the country and back in a potato chip bag than it is to send them freshly dug out of the ground to a school down the road.”

Cantrell expounded on our country’s bizarre food-system “superhighway,” and the ways in which Michigan producers and distributors are working to restore sanity during a TED Talk she gave in February. Tomorrow night she’ll speak more about the hows and whys of local food at the Frankfort Rec Center, in a program put on by the Northern Michigan Culinary Arts Community (NMCAC), an educational nonprofit formed this year.

“I credit Patty with beginning the conversation about local food here,” says Suz McLaughlin, of Still Grinning Kitchens, one of the cofounders of NMCAC. “Farm-to-table, the farm-to-school program…the reason we now have companies like Cherry Capital Foods. It’s pretty much because of her.”

We’ve come a long way in the two decades Cantrell has spent finding ways for farmers to take side trips off the superhighway and provide for their own communities. During twelve years with the Michigan Land Use Institute, she created a marketing program for local food with a 10-county reach, developed the farm-t0-school network, and started a program to help farmers develop business skills. The movement has blossomed with the growing understanding that eating closer to home is healthier in every way.

It’s fitting that Cantrell will speak at the Frankfort Rec Center—after the Council on Aging moved the senior center out of the building, the center was developed as an “incubator kitchen” by McLaughlin and Jim Barnes, of Crystal Lake Catering Company. With a lot of elbow grease and their own funds, they improved the kitchen facilities with the dream of providing a place for food entrepreneurs to test their ideas and launch their businesses right here, in their own neighborhood.

With education and distribution systems in place like the ones Cantrell and NMCAC are building, it should someday be easier—and more cost effective all around—to buy an Elberta peach from Elberta than one from an industrial operation in Georgia.

“We are making our way back to each other, and moving forward as a result,” says Cantrell. Come see where the conversation leads tomorrow night.

  1. another…EXCELLENT & Thank you!

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