By Julia Darnton, Michigan State University Extension Educator and Michigan Farm to Institution Network Outreach and Engagement Subcommittee Chair
Michigan is home to many world-class universities and colleges that are engaging minds with new ideas and creating opportunities for research and discovery. One of these opportunities is for universities and colleges to connect with local farmers to help reach the goal of 20% Michigan grown products on their dining menus by the year 2020. On June 9, 2015, the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN) joined the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan and culinary and sustainability specialists from colleges and universities across Michigan to discuss ways these groups can work together to reach the 20% goal. The higher education institutions represented included Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Agricultural Leaders of Michigan is a coalition of agricultural, commodity and agri-business leaders committed to promoting Michigan agriculture, participating in the ongoing dialog about issues affecting our state, and harnessing agriculture’s power and potential to further grow Michigan’s economy.
At the meeting, members of the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan and foodservice staff from different colleges and universities were able to meet one another and learn more about the Michigan Farm to Institution Network and it’s Cultivate Michigan campaign. This is an exciting opportunity for MFIN because most of our success and engagement to date has been seen in the K-12 and healthcare sectors; this event marks an expansion into the higher education realm. We are looking forward to building upon this event with future meetings between these groups and discovering ways to connect our great state’s agriculture with our world-class colleges and universities.