By Colleen Matts, Michigan Farm to Institution Network co-lead
Beautiful weather capped off three great events that were part of the first joint meeting of MFIN and the Michigan Food Hub Network in mid-July 2015. With tours of the downtown Flint Farmers Market, Thread Creek Farm and the For-Mar Truck Farm, a networking reception on the rooftop terrace of the market and a full day meeting, there were various ways for participants to learn, engage and connect in this unique gathering. Over 100 people from Michigan and a few from beyond participated in the day-long meeting portion of the gathering, which included updates from the respective networks, information about the newly-launched Michigan Good Food Fund, and regional discussions about the opportunities and challenges of connecting the dots between supply and demand of local foods. Stories from the field in Flint highlighted the Genesee County Food Systems Navigator Project and food systems innovations like the Local Grocer and area Hoophouses for Health activity. A panel on demystifying food safety featured MFIN’s own advisory committee member and Cultivate Michigan participant, Maureen Husek of Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak, who spoke to local food procurement efforts including challenging a distributor to offer and market more Michigan foods.
The goal of the two-day gathering was to further relationships between Michigan food hubs, the farmers that sell to them and institutional buyers of good food. The meeting closed with a challenge to participants to follow up after the event with at least one connection made there, with a large show of hands indicating that this would be an easy task. We expect future joint meetings to help stakeholders continue these conversations and deepen the connections between farmers, vendors, and buyers of Michigan foods while we together work toward reaching goals of MFIN’s Cultivate Michigan campaign and the Michigan Good Food Charter.
The joint network meeting was hosted by the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems, Morse Marketing Connections, LLC, the Ecology Center and local partners at MSU Extension. We would like to thank Sean Gartland for providing Flint Farmers Market tours, Ginny Knagg and Emma Blinkenberg and Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) for hosting the tour at Thread Creek Farm, Dana Voorhies for showing off the For-Mar Truck Farm, and the many food vendors at the Flint Farmers Market for supplying delicious lunches to attendees. Other food and drink for the events were provided by Steady Eddy’s Cafe, the Flint Crepe Company, Tenacity Brewing, the Local Grocer, Crust and Hot Cups Coffee and Tea.