Leaders from across the Grand Traverse region gathered last month to start looking for ways to make sure that The Grand Vision—a six-county, 50-year, citizen-based growth plan—and one of the area’s top industries—farming—work well together to strengthen the local economy while preserving the region’s rural character.
The group held an initial summit meeting, called Farm Route to Prosperity on Feb. 24 to get the ball rolling. The standing room only crowd of about 85 government, business, civic, non-profit, research, public health, and educational leaders met all day about ways to evaluate or influence everything from local zoning ordinances and food processing and distribution business investment to agricultural financing and youth programs. Their goal: making sure that growers, food distributors and processors, and food retailers—from restaurants to school cafeterias—guide the Grand Vision’s ultimate regional plan to preserve farmland and boost local prosperity with local food and farm business success.
The summit, sponsored by 15 different organizations and businesses, used a just-issued report, Northwest Michigan’s Farm Factor, as a springboard for discussion. The report, commissioned by the Michigan Land Use Institute, finds that the area’s local farm and food economy has great potential to create new jobs, keep large amounts of local food dollars in the region, and stimulate strong economic growth that also protects land and restores rural communities. But the report emphasizes that local governments, businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions must work for policies and plans that fit with and fulfill The Grand Vision process. The two-year Grand Vision project rolls out its “Final Vision” for township-by-township regional implementation this fall.
After the summit, Patty Cantrell, the founder and director of the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Taste the Local Difference local farm and food project, and Bob Russell, of the Neatawhanta Center, chatted about the work they and their colleagues accomplished. The two also issued an invitation for others interested in local farming and food to get involved as the group expands and acts on the “To Do” list the summit produced.
Goal and objectives
Approved Feb. 24, 2009 at Farm Route to Prosperity summit.
GOAL: Increase the resilience and double the value of the six-county region’s food and agricultural system in 10 years.
Priority strategies by working group
Developed at the Feb. 24, 2009, Farm Route to Prosperity summit.
HEALTH AND YOUTH
SUMMIT PLANNING PARTNERS