The ‘Farm Routes to Prosperity’ are getting clearer

March 14, 2013 | |

Rob Sirrine gives the inaugural John Chapman award to MLUI's Jim Sluyter.
Rob Sirrine gives the inaugural John Chapman award to MLUI’s Jim Sluyter.

More than 115 people representing all aspects of the local food system gathered Tuesday to celebrate recent successes in promoting local food and make plans for the future.

The fifth annual Farm Routes to Prosperity Summit at the Hagerty Center provided everyone involved with local agriculture a chance to share their stories. The results were impressive.

â–º Gary Derrigan, Traverse City Area Public Schools food service director, discussed TCAPS role in the region’s burgeoning Farm to School movement and the district’s collaboration with Leelanau Fruit to get local strawberries on their menu.

â–º Nic Welty, farmer and agri-entrepreneur from 9 Bean Rows, talked about a new farmer consortium and food hub initiative that will supply several of the region’s school districts with locally grown, washed, and processed vegetables.

â–º MLUI’s FoodCorps service members Kirsten Gerbatsch and Daniel Marbury shared an update on how taste tests in schools have started to make schools places where students can enjoy fresh local foods.

â–º MLUI’s Bill Palladino discussed the Taste the Local Difference Program and efforts to increase the consumption of local food to 20% by 2020.

â–º Sue Vigland, Hagerty Insurance’s wellness director, discussed the company’s efforts to get local food to employees by hosting a farmers market and cooking classes and by setting up an online system to order produce from a group of local farmers who deliver it right to their workplace.

â–º Steve Nance, Oryana’s General Manager, provided an overview of local investment opportunities, and how dollars spent on local businesses recirculate throughout our community.

Laura Galbraith, of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, also previewed a new Farm and Food 20/20 Fund that will fill a gap for much needed capital for emerging farms and related food entrepreneurs.

Those were just some of the overwhelmingly positive stories shared during the event. It was so encouraging to hear about the impact of the work that farmers, nonprofits, schools, businesses, and others are having in the region – whether it’s getting more local fruits and veggies to school kids’ lunch trays or how farmers are benefitting from a fast-growing local food economy.

The summit was a great way to spend a snowy March day with folks from around the region who are interested in furthering our local community food system.

Rob Sirrine is a Community Food Systems Educator with MSU Extension 

Jim Sluyter Receives Inaugural Chapman Award

A Glimpse at the Summit

Honoring Jim Sluyter

The event was also a chance to honor the work of one man who has helped make a lot of these successes possible: MLUI’s Jim Sluyter. The Food & Farming Network awarded Jim with its inaugural Chapman Award (named after Johnny Appleseed), which recognizes the “unerring dedication, enduring fortitude, and embodies the exceptional pioneering spirit that is remaking American agriculture right here in Northwest Michigan.”

Jim has coordinated the regional Food and Farm Network for the past three years, helping with efforts to boost to the entrepreneurial agriculture movement. Jim also is the man behind MLUI’s Get Farming! workshops for veteran and aspiring farmers. The trainings focus on improved business and marketing tactics for farmers; it boosts their business, gets local food on more plates, and supports the local economy. 

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