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Our Voices: Get Farming! Workshops Off and RunningPrint

Food & Farming | November 4, 2011 | By Jim Sluyter

The Michigan Land Use Institute’s Get Farming! project got off to a great start for the “workshop season” last week with three quality programs.

On Thursday, October 27th, we participated in a program sponsored by our friends at ISLAND (the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design). We met at Wells Family Farm near Williamsburg for a Seed Saving Workshop and Potluck. Nearly 20 people crowded into their living room for good food and good conversation on saving seeds from the farm or garden.

There is no lack of enthusiasm for seed saving in the region, and plenty of good reasons to do it, from saving money to having higher quality seeds than you can get from the catalogues. One of the best reasons, though, is to have regionally adapted seed stock. Every year that a farmer or gardener sows seeds from his or her own plants, those varieties will become more adapted to the specific soils, micro-climates and management practices on that farm or garden. Saving seeds closes the circle on locally grown foods.

Watch here for more programs on seed saving early next year, or check here for information on how to save your own seeds.

On Friday, October 28th, we partnered with MSU Extension to deliver two workshops on farm marketing at the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Center.. Bob Olson, wearing his Food Alliance cap, provided an overview of the pros and cons of using third party certifications, like USDA Certified Organic or Food Alliance Certified as a way to market a farm’s produce.

Vicki Morrone brought expertise from Michigan State University Extension on the specifics of Organic Certification and Rich Pirog of the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems provided engaging insights into “place based food.” Jim Schwantes and Judy Reinhardt brought the local perspective on organic certification into the program with their experiences at Sweeter Song Farm, located just down the road from the Hort Center.

After sharing a great lunch from Ethnic Garden Catering, it was back to Rich and a discussion of regional food hubs. A man of many talents, Bob was now wearing his Cooperative Development Services hat, speaking to the challenges of entering the wholesale markets for farm goods. We wrapped the program with a discussion on how to apply some of these ideas here and now, led by Evan Smith, Operations Manager at Cherry Capital Foods.

These workshops are only the beginning. Later this month, on November 16th and 17th, we are partnered with some of the best to bring important programs on agri-food safety. The ever-popular Hoop for the Future session on hoophouse management returns to Black Star Farms on December 12, and I am busy on the schedule for 2012. We will keep you posted!

Jim Sluyter manages the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Get Farming! project.