January 23, 2012
TRAVERSE CITY—Farmers and local food distributors interested in selling to schools in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties are invited to a meeting from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30 at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center.
The event “Creating Farm to School Business Opportunities” is an opportunity for farmers and food distributors to talk with the food service directors of all four of Leelanau’s public schools, as well as Traverse City Area Public Schools. All of these schools are interested in purchasing locally-grown food for school meals and snacks, as well as for summer programs.
“These schools are planning menus designed around northwest Lower Michigan’s growing season,” said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist in food and farming at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “They also are willing to order local farm products jointly if larger volumes make business sense for schools and farms.”
The Leelanau food service directors have been meeting monthly since September in a “Leelanau Learning Circle of Food Service Directors” facilitated by the Michigan Land Use Institute. They are sharing ideas and brainstorming ways to expand their schools’ farm to school purchasing and fresh food preparation. Traverse City Area Public Schools manages the food service of Suttons Bay Public Schools and also is working to expand its own farm to school purchasing.
“They are all interested in finding ways to cooperate to build the local food economy,” Conners said.
Representatives of private, parochial, and early childhood schools in Leelanau County are also invited.
Farmers who attend will make business connections; learn specifics about what the schools wish to purchase; and discuss barriers to increasing sales, along with strategies for overcoming them. Farms should bring information about their products, and samples if they like.
“Creating Farm to School Business Opportunities” is organized by the Michigan Land Use Institute and its Taste the Local Difference program in partnership with the Leelanau Learning Circle and the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Registration to this free event is requested. For more information or to register, contact Jim Sluyter or Diane Conners of MLUI at 231-941-6584; or [email protected] and [email protected]. Online registration is available at http://localdifference.org/getfarming/registration.asp.
The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center is located at 6686 S. Center Highway near Suttons Bay.