Posted by: 4pack | September 11, 2009

“Ideal Food”: Michigan Ranks Behind Only California In Variety Of Agricultural Products But It Leads In “Fresh Market” Sales To Grocers, Restauranteurs And The Public

 FOUR PACKS WILL BE STEPPING UP AND PROMOTING THE VERY IMPORTANT AND EVOLVING “FRESH MARKET” WHICH CAN BRING FRESH VEGETABLES AND FRUITS DIRECTLY FROM MORE TRADITIONAL FARMS DIRECTLY TO THE TABLE…NO PROCESSING OR COMPROMISING OF NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF THESE WHOLE FOODS….READ BELOW FROM “GOURMET” ONLINE:

taste the local difference logoIf there’s anyplace that ought to be immune from a California-style food revolution, it’s Michigan. Long winters, high unemployment, an economy that’s been staggering for years, no instantly recognizable culinary culture—Berkeley it ain’t. But the truth is, Michigan farmers raise the second-greatest variety of agricultural products in the country, after California. Traditionally most of the fruits and vegetables grown there have gone straight to giant food processors, but that system isn’t working the way it used to, now that processors have access to cheap produce from across the globe. So farmers are turning to what’s called the fresh market—selling directly to grocers, restaurateurs, and the public. The amounts sold locally are still small, buttaste the local difference michigan the potential is immense. “We found that if Michigan tripled the amounts sold in the fresh market, it could increase net farm income by $164 million,” says Patty Cantrell, a senior policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute, who built a ten-county program in northwest Michigan called Taste the Local Difference (TLD) to help farmers reach consumers and vice versa.

TLD has been remarkably successful, not only out front where the summer people are benefiting along with everyone else—as with the Elberta market—but deep in the community. An online wholesale marketplace, for instance, connects farmers with schools, stores, and restaurants. The school effort has been especially successful: 30 schools in this area now have farm-to-school programs, and cafeterias are showcasing local asparagus, honey, grapes, apples, pears, squash, and more. In Traverse City, known as the Cherry Capital for the fruit that takes pride across the region, there’s a cherry icon on the school-lunch menu next to each local item. When the Frankfort-Elberta public schools introduced local apples, the kids increased their consumption of the fruit from a single bushel a week to five bushels. It turns out that huge, imported apples with a hard, glossy veneer didn’t appeal to children any more than they appeal to us pretentious food lovers.

Other initiatives in local production and marketing are underway as well. “We need smaller-scale processing and transportation—it’s all been scaled huge,” says Cantrell. “Farmers have to be able to differentiate their lettuce from the huge mass of lettuce.” She likes to tell the story of Shetler Dairy, a longtime farm that was about to go out of business until it located some 1920s-era bottling equipment in a barn and started selling its non-homogenized, antibiotic-and-hormone-free milk under the dairy’s own label. (Tagline: “Our cows aren’t on Drugs, But they are on Grass!”) “Now they’re flourishing, and the family’s kids are all working in the business,” Cantrell says.

Elitist? Well, a half-gallon of Shetler milk costs $3.79 at the Honor Family Market in Honor, Michigan (population 299 as of the 2000 census). A half-gallon of regular milk is $2.59. If the only shoppers interested in Shetler’s milk are the elitists of Honor—okay, throw in the elitists of nearby Beulah, population 363—the dairy would not appear to have a bright future. But according to Cantrell, “everyday people” are buying it—as well as the cream, the chocolate and strawberry milk, and the yogurt smoothies. I tasted a rich, tangy peach yogurt smoothie (lowfat yogurt mixed with an organic peach purée) from Shetler; and as far as I’m concerned, $3.59 for a pint of this amazing substance is a bargain. It’s also a luxury, of course. But if you have $3.59 in disposable income on hand at lunchtime, it’s hard to think of a happier or more productive way to spend it. This region lost more than a third of its medium-size farms in recent years, and small farms are even more vulnerable. “Farmers are trying to make a profit,” Cantrell points out. “And an organically grown carrot is a relatively scarce item. We have to increase the supply, and increase the avenues to market.”

http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/09/michigan-farmers-market

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Responses

  1. Smitten with the Mitten, that’s for sure 🙂 I love my state.


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