All The Farm That Is Fit To Print

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Website For Michigan Food Festivals


This is a great website that lists featured food events in Northern Michigan.

Here is a sampling of just a few Featured Food Events:

    June 8-10, 2012 National Asparagus Festival
    Shelby, Michigan
    Held every year during the second weekend of June in Oceana County. Events include a Grand Parade, Family Activities, Arts & Crafts Fair, Motorcycle Run, 5k Run, Asparagus Food Show and much more!

    June 29-30, 2012 Pasty Fest 2012
    Calumet, Michigan
    This festival celebrates the Cornish pasty, which is pastry filled with beef, sliced potato, turnip or rutabaga and onion, and baked. Pasties were traditionally eaten by copper miners in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Events include the Pasty Walk and Pasty Parade, music, pasty bake-off, and children's games, including the dreaded Pasty Pull.

    July 7, 2012 39th Annual Int’l Cherry Pit-Spitting Championship
    Eau Claire, Michigan
    Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm hosts the event, with competitions for men, women, and youths. The current world's record spit is 93 feet 6-1/2 inches.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

When ‘Local’ Makes It Big

by New York Times--Kim Severeson:

WHEN Jessica Prentice, a food writer in the San Francisco Bay area, invented the term “locavore,” she didn’t have Lay’s potato chips in mind. 

      But never mind. On Tuesday, five potato farmers rang the bell of the New York Stock Exchange, kicking off a marketing campaign that is trying to position the nation’s best-selling brand of potato chips as local food.
Five different ads will highlight farmers who grow some of the two billion pounds of starchy chipping potatoes the Frito-Lay company uses each year. One is Steve Singleton, who tends 800 acres in Hastings, Fla.
“We grow potatoes in Florida, and Lays makes potato chips in Florida,” he says in the ad. “It’s a pretty good fit.”
Mr. Singleton’s ad and the other four will be shown only in the farmer’s home state. A national spot featuring all five potato farmers begins next week.
Frito-Lay is one of several big companies that, along with some large-scale farming concerns, are embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means. This mission creep has the original locavores choking on their yerba mate. But food executives who measure marketing budgets in the millions say they are mining the concept because consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from.
“Local for us has two appeals,” said Aurora Gonzalez, director of public relations for Frito-Lay North America, which is owned by PepsiCo. “We are interested in quality and quickness because we want consumers to get the freshest product possible, but we have a fairly significant sustainability program, and local is part of that. We want to do business more efficiently, but do it in a more environmentally conscious way.”
The original “eat local” movement, an amalgam of food and environmental politics, came of age a decade or so before the term locavore was coined in 2005.
To a certain set of believers, supporting locally grown food is part of a broad philosophical viewpoint that eschews large farming operations, the heavy use of chemicals and certain agricultural practices, like raising animals in large, confined areas.
“The local foods movement is about an ethic of food that values reviving small scale, ecological, place-based, and relationship-based food systems,” Ms. Prentice said. “Large corporations peddling junk food are the exact opposite of what this is about.”
But people on the other side of the argument say the widening view of what it means to eat locally is similar to the changes the term organic went through as it grew from a countercultural ideal in the 1960s and 1970s to an industry with nearly $25 billion in sales last year. A related debate about how to define sustainable farming is now gathering force in government, agriculture and business.
Concerns over food safety, quality and cost are driving people beyond hard-core locavores to seek out food that has traveled fewer miles and has a traceable provenance, said Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for the food conglomerate ConAgra.
The company recently began a marketing campaign to highlight its Hunt’s canned tomatoes, most of which are grown within 120 miles of its Oakdale, Calif., processing plant.
Of course, the tomatoes would be local only to people in the area. But if the company can show consumers its tomatoes are grown near the plant that processes them, shoppers who want to know where their food comes from might be more apt to buy them.
“The problem is there is absolutely no way we can have local produce within 100 miles of every person in America, so the question is how do we take it to that next level,” said Phil Lempert, a grocery industry analyst known as the Supermarket Guru who ConAgra recently hired to work on its Hunt’s tomatoes promotion.
Other companies are embracing the term “local” in their own ways. Foster Farms, a $1 billion company that is the largest producer of poultry products on the West Coast, markets its fresh chicken and turkey as “locally grown” because it contracts with hundreds of local growers in the states where it operates.
Some producers are stretching local to mean locale, emphasizing the geographic origin of their food. Dairy products from California, oranges from Florida and almost anything made in Vermont are getting special attention from marketers. Kraft is trying to figure out whether people in Wisconsin will buy more pickles if they know the cucumbers that go into a jar of Claussen’s are grown there.
“The ingenuity of the food manufacturers and marketers never ceases to amaze me,” said Michael Pollan, the author of “In Defense of Food” and a contributor to The New York Times Magazine. “They can turn any critique into a new way to sell food. You’ve got to hand it to them.”
Some people marketing their big-scale food on a small-scale level understand that. They say they’re not pretending to be something they are not.
“This is celebrating the notion of community,” said Dave Skena, vice president for potato-chip marketing of Frito-Lay. “We don’t use the term ‘locally grown’ because that’s a personal issue for so many people.”
Large farms usually given over to commodity crops are also having a local moment, driven in large part by economics.
In central California, the Sacramento County Farm Bureau recently started a “Grow and Buy Local” initiative with a $50,000 grant from the county.
Part of the money is being used to encourage 3,000 area farmers whose fields are filled with feed grain, safflower and other commodity crops to plant acres of grocery store crops like strawberries or artichokes, or to hold some fruit, like pears, back from the canner.
That fresh produce can then be marketed as local and sold to nearby institutions like hospitals and jails that want to buy food raised nearby. And some of it can fill farm stands, which helps satisfy consumers who want to buy local fruits and vegetables and don’t care as much about, say, farm size or organic practices, said Charlotte Mitchell, the executive director of the county farm bureau and a Foster Farms turkey rancher.
“We have to continue to feed the world, but we need to make people aware that going to that local strawberry stand is so important, too,” she said.
For some big agricultural interests, promoting local food has a protectionist bent. Sales of Virginia apples were hurt a few years ago when Chinese apples flooded the market, said Martha Moore, director of governmental relations for the 38,000-member Virginia Farm Bureau.
Those kinds of threats from imported food is one reason her agency started a local food marketing program last year.
“If promoting local agriculture will help America to become food independent, that’s what we want,” she said.
She doesn’t buy into all the values many local food advocates hold dear, like cage-free eggs; limited use of herbicides, fertilizers and other chemicals; and small farms.
“We don’t think the argument should be about the size of the farm,” she said. “It should be, ‘Do you know the farmer and where is the farmer from?’ You can have good and bad actors in any size farm.”
For hard-core locavores, watching the food industry adopt their language is frustrating. But it also means things are changing.
“You know the locavore phenomenon is having an impact when the corporations begin co-opting it,” Ms. Prentice said. “Everyone should know where things are processed. The ‘where’ question is really important.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012



Welcome to Michigan Family Farms, a true gathering place for family farmers, the products they grow and those of us who love to eat them. Buying local food is good for your body, your peace of mind and our local economy. The time has come to know where your food is from. Michigan has it all, the rolling hills, the wondrous Great Lakes and the perfect growing conditions for a myriad of delicacies. And you’ll find them all here. So kick off your shoes, and have a look around. We’re glad you stopped by.

Monday, May 21, 2012

local food

What exactly is local food?

by Sustainable Table

Talk of local food is everywhere. But what does it mean? How local is local? Local is shorthand for an idea that doesn't have a firm definition. Unlike organic standards, which entail specific legal definitions, inspection processes, and labels, local means different things to different people, depending on where they live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are looking for.
Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. The next ring out might be food grown in our immediate community - then state, region, and country. For some parts of the year or for some products that thrive in the local climate, it may be possible to buy closer to home. At other times, or for less common products, an expanded reach may be required.
People who value local as their primary food criterion are sometimes referred to as locavores. The term "locavore" was coined by Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area for World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100 mile radius. With such excitement and momentum building in the local food movement, the New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore as its word of the year in 2007.
One easy way to start buying local is to choose one product to focus on. Vegetables are often a good place to start. Produce also offers a good introduction to eating seasonally—an excellent way to learn about local agriculture. Then, try seeking out sources for local meat or dairy. Check out the Shop Sustainable section for more on how to make buying local fun and easy. Search the Eat Well guide to start shopping. With a pantry and fridge full of beautiful, local foods, you may want to start experimenting in the kitchen. For recipes, cookbook reviews, tips, and other culinary tidbits, visit Sustainable Kitchen.
While local is certainly a flexible term, the basic concept is simple: local foods are produced as close to home as possible. Buying local supports a more sustainable food system because true sustainability goes beyond the methods used in food production to include every step that brings food from farm to plate.
Local vs. sustainable
Sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities. Sustainability includes buying food as locally as possible. Buying local food does not guarantee that it is sustainably produced. Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, factory farming, hormone use, and non-therapeutic use of antibiotics can all be involved in local food production, so it's important to make sure that the local food you buy is from farmers or gardeners using sustainable methods.
When considering the sustainability of a product there are a lot of questions to ask, so if a store or producer is advertising that their food was raised locally, take the time to ask a few questions like: "Do you know how these animals were raised?" or "Do you know the name and location of the farm where this product was grown?"
Local vs. global
At its roots sustainable farming benefits the local community and local economy while supporting the environment by enriching the soil, protecting air and water quality, and minimizing energy consumption. Industrial food production is entirely dependent on fossil fuels, which, when refined and burned, create greenhouse gases that are significant contributors to climate change. The biggest part of fossil fuel use in industrial farming is not transporting food or fueling machinery; it's chemicals. As much as forty percent of the energy used in the food system goes towards the production of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.1
By adding transportation, processing and packaging to the food system equation, the fossil fuel and energy use of our current food system puts tremendous stress on the environment. For example, between production and transportation, growing 10% more produce for local consumption in Iowa would result in an annual savings ranging from 280,000 to 346,000 gallons of fuel, and an annual reduction in CO2 emissions ranging from 6.7 to 7.9 million pounds.2
Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep fresh food from spoiling as it is transported and stored for long periods of time. This packaging is difficult or impossible to reuse or recycle. In addition, industrial farms are a major source of air and water pollution.
Small, local farms are run by farmers who live on their land and work hard to preserve it. They protect open spaces by keeping land in agricultural use and preserve natural habitats by maintaining forest and wetlands. By being good stewards of the land, seeking out local markets, minimizing packaging, and harvesting food only when it is ready to consume, farmers can significantly reduce their environmental impact. In fact, studies show that sustainable agricultural practices can actually increase food production by up to 79% while at the same time actively reducing the effects of farming on climate change through carbon sequestration.3

Did you know?

  • Hawaii imports 90% of its food.4
  • In 1866, 1,186 varieties of fruits and vegetables were produced in California. Today, California's farms produce only 350 commercial crops.5
  • Communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from large ones. Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into local economies by purchasing feed, seed and other materials from local businesses,6whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant companies. Large factory livestock farms also degrade local property values because of the intense odors they emit and other environmental problems they cause.7
  • A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.8
  • In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread—approximately the cost of the wrapping.9
  • Farmers' markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.10
  • About 1/3 of all U.S. farms are located within metropolitan areas, comprising 18% of total U.S. farmland.11

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Carmen Carter Remembers Turkey Farming - Great Depression

In 1929 Orlo and I had been married two years and had a year old son, Douglas. We were just nicely getting started in the turkey raising business on his parents' farm near Bridgeton. We had about a thousand young turkeys that spring and we bought feed on credit during the growing season and paid for it when we sold the turkeys at Thanksgiving time.
But that year was different. The newspapers were full of news about bank closing, businesses failing, and people out of work. There was just no money and we could not sell the turkeys. So we were in debt with no way out.
But when we read about the bread lines and soup kitchens in the cities, we felt we were lucky because we raised our own food. Our house was rent free, just keep it in repair. Our fuel, which was wood, was free for the cutting. Then our second child, Iris, was born and our biggest expense was doctor bills. However, this too was solved when our doctor agreed to take turkeys and garden produce for pay.
About that time my husband and a friend started operating a crate and box factory near Maple Island. After expenses they were each making about a dollar a day. Food was cheap. Coffee was 19 cents a pound, butter 20 cents, bacon the same, with a five pound bag of sugar or flour about 25 cents.
Gasoline was five gallons for a dollar so for recreation we would get into our 1926 Overland Whippet and go for long rides. We also had an Atwater Kent radio we could listen to when we could buy batteries for it.
I had always liked to write poetry so I decided to submit some to Grit, a weekly newspaper. I was delighted when they accepted them and paid me $2 each for them. That money bought a large bag of groceries at that time. I continued to write for Grit for several years.
Orlo finally got a job as a mechanic at a garage in Grant. He earned $15 a week and for us the Depression was over. But it taught us to really appreciate what we had.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How much do rising food prices worry you?

by CNN's Jack Cafferty

The United States is known as "the breadbasket of the world." We have always had plenty of food, and it's always been cheap. Suddenly, not anymore.

A new USA Today-Gallup poll shows 73% of us are worried about rising grocery bills, and almost half say food inflation is causing a hardship for them.

Suddenly sharply rising food prices are right up there with the 80% of Americans who are concerned about record-high gasoline prices. According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is now $3.53.
The government says that food inflation has been running at a 5.3% percent annual rate in the last three months. The largest price increases are for items like white bread, milk, eggs and bananas.

While higher prices are hurting Americans, they can wreak havoc in other parts of the world – places like Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt and India. The United Nations says that high food prices could mean more than 100 million people will go hungry.

Shortages and hoarding of some items are also leading some stores in the U.S. to ration food. Reuters reports Sam's Club is limiting sales of various kinds of rice "due to recent supply and demand trends." And it's been reported that a Costco warehouse in California is limiting purchases of flour, rice and cooking oil.

Here’s my question to you: How much of a concern are rising food prices in your household?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Scott writes:
It's hard when you can't afford the gas to get the food. Less meats and more canned soup. Less entertainment and more dry goods. Less air conditioning, etc. We've had to compromise everywhere, and it just makes life harder to live. We should be able to come home from work and relax, not rationalize every decision. I never thought I'd need a part time job to afford a bagged lunch.
Michael from Taiwan writes:
Jack, I live in Taiwan, the second most crowded country in the world. Rice prices in Asia have doubled in the past two years. While it has only affected the amount I can save each month to this point, there are many people who are struggling to buy rice, vegetables, and other necessary items…If it is a problem here, it is bound to become a much worse problem in the poorer countries in the region as well as those more dependent on imports like Japan and Korea.
Michele writes:
This is terrible! My family and I are forced to go to local food banks and pantries just to eat each month. I have never had to do this in the past. And get this, I'm employed! The portion of my paycheck that was allotted for food has gone to cover the high price of gas. What a catch 22.
Chris from Montana writes:
Jack, I'm a 22-year old man, about to be married in a month, and am scared that we won't even be able to afford an overnight honeymoon. With the cost of our housing going up, I'm afraid that even being stocked up on something such as bread could break us. It's scary, and pathetic.
Brad from Amarillo, Texas writes:
I am not so concerned for myself as I am for the potential for war in other countries. Not only are we supposed to be the breadbasket of the world, but we are supposed to be the world’s police. (As long as the country in question has oil, i.e. Iraq vs. Darfur) Lately we have overstretched our military, spent billions, and accomplished nothing. What are we going to do when more and more countries descend into chaos?
Mary from Alabama writes:
Rising food prices concern me a hell of a lot, as does the price of everything else. I'm a senor citizen, but still like the taste of food.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Natural Choice

A Natural Choice:

Jayne Leatherman Walker Leaves a Legacy
Long before the local foods movement swept the nation and the words sustainable agriculture infiltrated our vocabulary, Jayne Leatherman Walker was devoting her life to these causes.

Now, as she looks toward the close of her time on Earth, Jayne wants to make sure that her legacy furthers the movement.
To that end, Jayne has donated a conservation easement* on 40 acres in Bingham Township that is surrounded by development. Her dream is that the Eco Learning Center she established here in 1999 will continue. And that her land will welcome 30 families to tend garden plots here, feeding them physically as well as spiritually. Her passion has revolved around restoring fertility depleted by years of monoculture farming.
“My goal has always been to educate and demonstrate to people what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle,” says Jayne. “And to also teach them that they are part of nature—just another species that are part of this whole network.”
A stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis last February has made her even more acutely aware of that network—and of the preciousness of place. It has also fueled her desire to make a difference. You’d never know she is battling this disease; with her long blonde hair and trim figure, she looks far younger than her 70 years, and has an energy level to match. On an overcast afternoon, she offers an enthusiastic hug and celebrates the view with a sweep of her arm.
The land, along Bingham Road, just off M-22 has a commanding vantage point of Power Island and Grand Traverse Bay from its ridgeline. “It would be an ideal condo site,” says Jayne, who bought the land after moving to the area from San Diego in 1983 with her ex husband.
Since then, Jayne says “I learned to love the land as passionately as you can love a person. This place seduced me into a relationship with it. Everything I know about life I have learned from this land.”
With the help of a small inheritance, she began the Eco Learning Center. At one time she had three summer interns, a couple of employees and CSA (community supported agriculture) that fed 20 families. Living on the West Coast for years introduced her to sustainable agriculture practices. Over the years she has been an avid student of such things as soil microbes and beneficial insects, and how to farm so that wildlife corridors are respected. “I’ve always grown things and am a big picture thinker,” she says.
Indeed. Walking the upland reveals old greenhouses, a chicken coop and a solar shower. There is even a metal sculpture fashioned from old stainless steel sinks and other found objects—the byproduct of a woman’s welding class.
Months of cancer treatment has forced Jayne to abandon farming and halt the activities of the Eco Learning Center. But these once-busy remnants of her vision rise from the tall grass and weeds, whispering of possibilities.
Jayne has four children and nine grandchildren but does not know if one of them will want to pick up where she left off one day. She says she donated the easement because “I believe in community and I am not about money. The human condition is in such a state. If it’s always about money we will never get past any of the big things.”
Had she sold the land and split the proceeds between her heirs, it wouldn’t reflect what she really wants to pass on to them. “What better modeling can I do than to show them how important place is?” she asks.
For whoever stewards this land after Jayne, the conservation easement will allow for 51% of the 40 acres to be farmed and for structures to be maintained. It also allows for one home site. “I would love to see someone build a furnace-less house, built into a berm and use solar and wind energy and green building materials,” she muses.
Walking back along the winding road that intersects a beautiful hardwood forest, Jayne says she can imagine herself as a tree out there one day. She is comforted, knowing that the Leelanau Conservancy will be there to uphold her wishes. “I would die for this piece of land, fight hard to see certain things be taken care of.”
“This was by far my most unique project, yet very meaningful,” says Conservancy Land Protection Specialist Yarrow Wolfe. . It allows for the continued agricultural use on the property in specific areas, while ensuring the steep slopes, scenic views and beautiful northern hardwood forest is protected. Carrying out Jayne’s legacy and seeing her vision through the permanent protection of her property was very special for me.”
Jayne reflects on how things have changed since she first moved to Leelanau County. “The Conservancy has made quantum leaps in the last 10 years, the way they have tried to create wildlife corridors and to find a way to preserve farmland,” she says. “I’m at peace, knowing that I’ve tried to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and to visualize what will be for the next generation. The land brought me to help it so I know that it will also find the right person to create their own mission, within the framework we’ve created.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Buy Local Foods?

By Local Harvest

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Know Your Farmer

Traverse City — Janice Benson---The Michigan Land Use Institute is launching a new Know Your Farmer marketing tool as a companion to the successful Taste the Local Difference Food and Farm Guide that is a directory to more than 200 of the region’s farms and their products.

This new pilot project features biographical stories and photographs of 20 farm families growing food in the northwest Lower Michigan region. These Know Your Farmer biographies are designed as marketing tools that will help attract consumers to the high quality food available to Grand Traverse region residents from their local farmers, fisherman, and other food businesses. The biographies are being packaged as Web-based articles, posters, farmer ‘baseball cards’, and market cards to help promote the farmers and raise consumer awareness about the important jobs being done by their farming neighbors.

The pilot project is made possible by funding from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The Grand Traverse Band and MLUI are seeking to expand the customer base and sales for local farms while also improving the health of families, and hope to eventually feature all of the farms in the Taste the Local Difference guide.

“We want people to get to know the farmers growing our food in this region and to make the connection that these are neighbors in our community. The more you learn about these farmers, the more you’ll want to support them,” said Janice Benson, director of the project. “Their stories are amazing. Hearing about their struggles, as well as successes makes you appreciate this very important occupation.”

The Institute has completed biographies for 20 farmers in our northwest Lower Michigan region.

The first ten Know Your Farmer biographies are posted on www.localdifference.org and two new biographies will be posted there each Monday for the next five weeks.

In addition to the biographies, the Institute is producing market cards for use at farmers markets and grocery stores, as well as farmer “baseball cards,” to help children learn about the people who grow the food that they eat.

“We hope that by learning about these farmers and fishermen, they will begin to recognize them as the ‘local heroes’ they are,” said Mrs. Benson.
The Institute is grateful to the Grand Traverse Band for their generous support to get this project started and they hope to continue to feature many more farms in our region in the future, as funding allows.

For more information about our Know Your Farmer Project, contact Janice Benson at 231-941-6584, ext. 21 or at janice@mlui.org.http://mlui.org/farms/fullarticle.asp?fileid=17542

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Are the Benefits of Free-Range Chicken?

by Erika Sanders

Chicken and eggs carry a variety of claims in the grocery store, from free-range to organic to no-antibiotics to natural (see References 1). These labels can be confusing when you're looking for a healthier product. Free-range poultry can offer health and other benefits, but you'll need to look beyond the label to determine whether the poultry comes from a source you trust.

Free-Range Defined

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines free-range as allowing chickens to have some access to an outside area (see References 1). The definition of free-range does not include specifications on how long chickens should remain outside and under what conditions. Chickens can be outside on concrete for a short period of time each day, for example, and still be labeled as free-range in the grocery store. The labels free-range and cage-free can cause confusion. Cage-free means chickens raised for meat were not kept in cages within a warehouse. Cage-free does not mean that chickens have access to outside areas. To ensure you're purchasing meat and eggs from free-range chickens that foraged on grubs and plants as in a natural environment, look for indications on the packaging that the chickens were pastured, or find poultry with the "Animal Welfare Approved" label, which is handed out by a nonprofit watchdog group (see References 2). Alternatively, buy from a local farmer who can guarantee the chickens ranged on pasture for a majority of each day.

Health Benefits

Reports have been mixed on health benefits of free-range chicken. But some smaller studies indicate that pastured chickens may be healthier. A 2003 study by Penn State University researchers found that eggs from pastured hens have higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E (see References 3). For the greatest health benefits, purchase poultry and eggs from a trusted source so you know the chickens ranged freely on pesticide-free grass.

Animal Welfare

Chickens confined to shared cages inside warehouses don't engage in their natural behaviors, such as foraging, taking dust baths and flapping their wings (see References 4). If you are concerned about the amount of antibiotics fed to chickens, purchase poultry and eggs labeled with both free-range and no-antibiotic-added labels (see References 1).

On the Farm or In the Backyard

Free-range chickens on your farm or in your backyard can benefit your landscape. Farmers use mobile chicken pens to move chickens around on their agricultural lands. Chickens forage for insects and eat leftover crops such as lettuce and other greens while at the same time fertilizing the soil (see References 4, page 8). This creates a symbiotic relationship between the animals and the land. A few chickens in your backyard can help reduce pests in your garden and provide you with a source of fertilizer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

by Rachel Brougham

There’s just something about rural agriculture and supporting local farmers that inspires Ann Dougherty.

Seven years ago, Dougherty wanted to go on a culinary adventure and she was determined to take others along for the ride.

She founded the company Learn Great Foods, and now leads culinary and food tours in 10 Midwestern regions, including Petoskey.

“I have started tours a lot of places over the years, but no place is and was easier to get started than Petoskey,” Dougherty said. “It’s really amazing, but we have a group of people up here and everyone has the same idea. We just all kind of work together and on our own to promote this whole concept of eating locally and supporting local agriculture.”

Dougherty calls it, “farm to fork.” Others call it “farm to table.” No matter what you want to call it, there’s a food movement happening right here in Northern Michigan.

“When I began leading the culinary tours in Petoskey, much of the work had already been done for me,” Dougherty explained. “There was already people here doing cool stuff and working together. But what we’re doing now is investing in our future.”

Dougherty designs her Petoskey area culinary tours around what her customers want. From visiting a local bison farm, to cooking meals with top chefs from the area, to even learning about compost, there is no topic that is off limits.

“The farmers aren’t always, and I’m not necessarily making money, but what we’re doing is bringing a lot of people to see a lot of local farms and how they work. These people then spend money on products at the farm, and they then go out and visit local shops and restaurants and spend more money, and meet people,” Dougherty explained. “It just creates a connection for people on where their food comes from and creates this network. It also sets this area up for our future.”

Dougherty isn’t alone on her quest for educating people about the benefits of eating locally.

She shares a downtown Petoskey office with Toril Fisher, executive director of Farming for our Future.

The nonprofit organization which is based at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs, not only connects people with their food and where it is grown, but also how it affects their personal health and the health of their community.
“We have the opportunity to vote with our forks three times a day. Eating locally means more for the local economy,” Fisher said. “Local food also translates into an equation that helps the environment with less food miles and fewer chemicals to make food more shelf stable.”

Fisher believes that despite Michigan’s sluggish economy, the state is poised to be a food destination with its abundance of rich soils, water resources and favorable growing climate.

“Currently, eating local seems to be viewed as a trendy movement which is reserved for those who can afford it,” Fisher explained “As gas prices rise and people feel that pinch in their wallet, making tough choices with regards to how to budget your household expenses can be one in which purchasing fresh produce or locally produced milk is just not an option. We need to continue to review local, state and federal policies on how to offer local food programs to those with less.”

In recent years, eating locally and supporting local agriculture has spilled over from home kitchens to local restaurants and classroom settings.
Eight years ago, Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey began offering cooking courses led by area chefs.

Classes are now offered in both the spring and the fall, and participants learn about local ingredients, recipes and techniques.

“As food is now a main topic of conversation for so many people, we believe our classes helped foster local interest,” said Liz Ahrens, executive director of Crooked Tree Arts Center. “In such a small setting, the class really learns from the hands of local chefs and gets to know chefs outside a restaurant.”

Julie Adams, co-owner of Julienne Tomatoes in Petoskey, has led several of those cooking classes.

Since Adams and Tom Sheffler opened Julienne Tomatoes in Petoskey eight years ago, they have made a point to utilize as many local vendors as possible.

“I feel that people make a connection between products and people, and when customers come into my store, I want them to know that they are supporting others in our community,” Adams said. “That’s what community is — identifying with people and making a connection between people and the food. And when that happens, we all benefit.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How Mario Batali Escapes New York Summers

by Bon Appetit

While New York City sweats, Mario Batali rides out the summer at his fish camp near Traverse City, Michigan. The chef gives us his lowdown on the coolest, snark-free lakeside food scene in America

I first came to the Leelanau Peninsula ten years ago. My wife, Susi, went to college in Michigan, and she had friends near Traverse City. We rented a house on a little beach for a week. The next year it was two weeks, the next year three, then four. We ended up buying a 1920s fish camp on Lake Michigan, did some renovation, put in a pizza oven, and fell in love with the place. Now we're here from July 1 until Labor Day weekend.

mario-batali-illustration.jpgThe food scene has really exploded in the region. There are farmers' markets and hip-looking people farming and butchering. It's very cool. Even in Northport, our town of less than 1,000 people, there's a great weekly farmers' market in the summer. The chefs involved in the scene celebrate what's here; they're not trying to be anything they're not. Now people are coming for gastronomic tourism.

All winter I look forward to eating two things: pizza from my wood oven topped with Leelanau Cheese Company's Raclette and serrano chiles, and cherry pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company. I prefer tart pie cherries, even to eat out of hand, but in Michigan there are Rainier, Queen Anne, and Golden cherries that are that big and as hard as apples.

Of course, the fish is delicious: lake trout and whitefish. There's also grass-fed beef and local pork. The traditional Midwest culture of cheese and sausages exists, but it's so low-key.

Local winemakers started off trying to make California-style wines--Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay. They weren't bad, just not very interesting. In the last few years they've planted grape varieties like Cabernet Franc and Riesling that make more sense for the area. So the wine has come around 1,000 percent in the past decade. There's also Tandem Ciders, which makes a few different hard ciders, as well as sweet cider during apple season.

chubby-mary-the-cove-michigan.jpgA Chubby Mary at the Cove

When we go out to eat, it's casual. There's a place in Leland called The Cove that has killer chicken sandwiches and burgers. My favorite restaurant in Traverse City is The Cooks' House. It's farm-to-table and it's delicious. There's a seafood place on the east side of Grand Traverse Bay called Siren Hall. We take a boat across the bay to the little harbor there, tie up, and walk 200 yards to the restaurant. It feels so good.

The beauty of Traverse City is that in the world many of us live in--really, any big city--we think we have to call ahead to get a table for dinner. Here you call and say, "Hey, I'd like to have dinner at 7:30," and the answer is always "No problem, how many?" That's it! Maybe they are booked, but they never act like it. It's the same with golf--and, really, with everything else. There are no lines, there is no tension, nobody's waiting to jump ahead of you. Like I tell all my friends: Traverse City is the antidote for New York City. And, by the time the end of August rolls around, New York City is the antidote for Traverse City. You can live without tension only so long before you go crazy. --as told to Scott DeSimon

bare-knuckle-farm.jpgLocally raised produce

Mario's Leelanau Peninsula

You can fly into Traverse City from several major cities. Warning: Like Mario, you might want to spend the whole summer exploring.

1. Fishtown: "Back in the '50s, there was a commercial fishing fleet and shanties on these docks. Today, it's a preserved area with restaurants and shops."

fried-fish-sandwich-boones-prime-time-pub.jpgThe fish sandwich at Boone's Prime Time Pub

2. Boone's Prime Time Pub: "They have this simple fried-fish sandwich with tartar sauce on a bun that's insane! Oh, and if they have fried smelts that day, get 'em."

3. The Cove: "Sitting by the waterfall overlooking the Leland marina and enjoying a Chubby Mary--garnished with a smoked chub fish--is one of my many summer pleasures."

4. Bare Knuckle Farm: "Their pigs and geese live in their orchards. The meat certainly tastes good--I'm not so sure how it's working for the trees, though."

5. Pleva's Meats: An old-school butcher in Cedar; I love the cherry-studded beef burgers called Plevalean that we grill at home. Totally unique.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Fresh as it gets

by Eric at Leelanau News
Jess Piskor delivered a bushel of greens directly from his garden near Northport to the newly opened Northport Farmers Market Friday morning, and was feeling on top of the world.

“This kale is as fresh as it gets,” said Piskor. “And this is the most meaningful work I’ve ever done,” the 2004 University of Michigan graduate added.

Until recently, Piskor had been working at a popular delicatessen in Ann Arbor where, as he puts it, he “got into food and quality produce.”
JESS PISKOR delivers some fresh radishes to his business partner Abra Berens while fellow gardener Jess Petrus (left) invites customers to their stall at the Northport Farmers Market on Friday morning.
“Growing and selling quality produce to your neighbors is about as satisfying as it gets,” he said. “Plus, I’m hoping we can keep my grandfather’s 40-acre farm in the family.”

Most of the farm is leased to cherry farmers. But Piskor’s 1.5-acre garden is keeping him and several of his friends and Ann Arbor “business partners” busy this summer. Farmers markets throughout Leelanau County are also bringing a little cash their way.

The farmers market season in Leelanau County is now well under way, with four of the five operations run by the Leelanau Farmers Market Association opening last week.

New this season is the Northport market, which opened Friday. Conducted outside The Depot next to the Northport Marina, the farm market will be open every Friday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through Sept. 18.
The farmers market in Suttons Bay has been open since May 16.

Megan Gregory is the newly-hired “market master” for the Suttons Bay, Leland and Glen Arbor markets, which are open on Saturdays, Thursdays and Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. respectively.

With a marketing degree from the Traverse City campus of Davenport University, Gregory said she’s trying out a few new ideas this year to increase attendance at farmers markets. On Saturday, for example, she invited a local musician to play guitar and sing at the Suttons Bay market for tips.

On July 16, the Leland Farmers Market will host a tour for Learngreatfoods.com, an Illinois-based organization specializing in “agri-culinary” tours. The event will include a visit to the fish market in Leland as well as a local winery.

“The farm markets have been busy so far,” Gregory said, “even though some of the crops appear to be a little bit behind this year.”

Spring crops such as rhubarb and asparagus were still in abundance at local farm markets last week. Strawberries had been delayed by unusually cool weather earlier this spring, however.

MELISSA DRAKE  counts money while her mother, Karen Drake, looks on at the farmers market Saturday morning in Suttons Bay.
“We had a few strawberries Saturday morning at Suttons Bay, but they sold out quickly,” Gregory said. “More of them will be coming in soon, I’m sure.”

The “market master” in Northport is longtime resident George Anderson, while Reuben Chapman heads the Empire market. Gregory, Anderson and Chapman all work for the board of the Leelanau Farmers Market Association, a non-profit organization that came into existence nine years ago through another organization called the Leelanau Agricultural Alliance, with the help of the Michigan State University Extension.

Leelanau County MSU Extension director Rob Sirrine said he believes the farmers markets are off to a good start this year and have a bright future ahead.

“More people are interested in purchasing local food and supporting local farmers,” Sirrine said.

And “local” is what farm markets are all about. Rules promulgated for Leelanau Farmers Markets specify that “all products must be grown or produced locally” with “local” being defined as “within 60 miles of the Leelanau County Farmers Market that the vendor is selling at.”

Vendors pay fees for setting up a stand at farmer’s markets – as little as an introductory fee of $5 for one day, or as much as $250 for a space at all five farm markets for the entire season.

Farmer Karen Drake of Cherry Beach Orchards in Suttons Bay said the farm markets mean a lot to the bottom line for some local farmers.

“We do all five farmers markets,” Drake said, “and, so far, we haven’t seen as many customers as we’d like. We’re hoping more locals will stop by the markets this summer for some really great deals, some really fine products, and to help support local agriculture.”

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grab your Cinco de Mayo hat for the 2012 Spring Sip & Savor wine tasting tour

Stacey Stapels

The 2012 Spring Sip & Savor on the Leelanau Peninsula wine trail will be this weekend, May 5 and 6. This annual celebration north of Traverse City features food and wine pairings at the 19 wineries along the trail. In honor of Cinco de Mayo the wineries will be participating in the Sip-o de Mayo Hat Contest; a fun opportunity to show off your best hat and win prizes including a fantastic Michigan Wine Coast getaway.

Each winery will offer an award for their chosen category of hat and have prizes from wineries and local businesses. The Grand Prize winner awarded by popular vote of participants will receive two nights lodging at The Homestead in Glen Arbor, complete dinner for two at La Becasse in Maple City, Sunday brunch for two at the Bluebird in Leland, a wood-fired pizza from the Hearth & Vine CafĂ© at Black Star Farms and a pair of tickets to any Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association (LPVA) tour or the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Local Food Pledge: Make a difference!

If we all spend just $10 a week
on local farm foods,
our regional economy
will grow by nearly $5 million a year

Take the pledge here!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Edible Grande Traverse

Edible Grande Traverse is an award-winning publication which season by season promotes the appreciation of the local foods produced in Michigan‘s northwestern Lower Peninsula . We celebrate the seasonal and authentic foods, beverages and culinary traditions that make our foodshed both more diverse and more sustainable. Our mission is to help transform how our community shops for, cooks, and thinks of the foods we eat. Why spell Grande with an "e"?

Through our magazine, website, and events, we link readers with area farmers, retailers, chefs, winemakers, and cheese and bread artisans and their passions for great foods. By encouraging these relationships to grow and thrive we hope to contribute to a future for the northwestern Lower Peninsula that includes healthy farms and foods and clean air, soil and water.

Edible Grande Traverse is for readers interested in:
  • Eating and growing delicious, locally produced, seasonal foods.
  • Learning about the people who grow, produce, cook, sell and serve those foods.
  • Discovering great dining, day trips, wine, beer and spirit makers, food events, festivals, books to read and new products to savor.