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Julia Darnton

 "As with many large changes in our society, we can be stronger and do more together... We can help people to understand the connection that they have with food and with one another."

Julie (right) helping to drive posts for the first hoop house build at the Women-in-Ag Collective Farming Center at Genesys Hospital in the Flint area.

Tell us about yourself!

  • Name: Julie Darnton 
  • Affiliation: MSU Extension & MFIN Outreach & Engagement Subcommittee Member
  • Website:

Where does your journey start - What drew you to farm to institution?

I come from the Farmers Market world and working on supporting community food systems.  My work with MSU Extension focuses on community food systems and supporting the great farmers of Michigan.  I also love to eat local food.  I want more people to eat and enjoy local food. Farm to Institution work is a continuation of supporting Michigan farmers and Michigan grown and produced foods. Increasing demand can work to increase the profitable supply of food and institutions are a great way to make local food systems and farming stronger.

What is the goal of the MFIN Outreach & Engagement Subcommittee?

We want to get more people engaged in the network and more food service directors from different institutions active with the Cultivate Michigan campaign! Our goal is to help people learn more about farm to institution efforts and encourage institutions to source and serve more local food.

When we can measure and give credit to institutions for the work that they are doing around buying local food, we can encourage more people to do the same. As with many large changes in our society, we can be stronger and do more together. That is why I want to help people to connect with farm to institution efforts and help them to buy more food.

What is the impact of your farm to institution work?

I really hope that creating a robust market for Michigan-grown food can help our local economy, improve our environment and bring us social benefits too. When we support local businesses we can circulate money in our local economy and sustain more farmers and families that are connected to those women and men.  We can also save money by not shipping our food around the globe. When we support local farms that are small and raise a diverse set of crops or animals, we can help farmers to keep farm land producing food. And when we change what we eat to consume more fruit and vegetables that are grown locally we can improve the health of the people in our communities.  We can help people to understand the connection that they have with food and with one another. 

How can people get involved or support this work?

There are lots of opportunities to get people involved and I will continue to reach out and make an effort to follow up with partners whenever I can! I look forward to the day (hopefully in 2020) when we exceed our goal of local food purchases making up more than 20% of an institution's food budget! Contact Lindsey Scalera if you want to learn more about the MIFN Outreach & Engagement Subcommittee!

Read some of Julia's MSUE Articles to keep up with her work: