Cultivate Michigan featuring new 2015 products

The Cultivate Michigan campaign is helping to raise awareness and increase institutional purchasing of local products one featured food at a time.

In 2015, the Cultivate Michigan Institutional purchasing campaign celebrated its one-year anniversary, being formally launched in April 2014 with the release of the Asparagus purchasing guide. Three more purchasing guides were released in 2014, featuring three Michigan grown products blueberries, tomatoes, and apples. The guides assisted institutions in finding and using local products sourced through traditional food distributors as well as regional distributors and food hubs.

By focusing on four individual foods each year (one per season), Cultivate Michigan makes it simple for institutions to integrate locally produced products into their menus and meals. While all of the 2014 products were either fruits or vegetables, the first product for 2015 highlights another major food industry within in the state - milk and dairy production. Michigan has some impressive numbers in terms of milk production, which contributes over $14 billion to the state’s economy annually. With this amount of production it seems only logical to encourage the state’s schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions to purchase Michigan produced milk.

The Cultivate Michigan featured foods and local purchasing campaign extends beyond the kitchens and offices where chefs and food buyers work. Institutions are encouraged to market their participation and highlight their purchasing for each of the year’s four featured foods. Posters, logos, and static cling stickers have been developed to assist institutions with communicating their participation in Cultivate Michigan to their students, employees, patients, and to the general public.

The milk promotion campaign is increasing awareness about a little known fact in terms of milk bottle labeling. Each bottle of milk that is processed in the United States has a five-digit code on it and the first two digits of that code reflect the state where the milk was bottled. The two digit code for Michigan is 26, so if your milk bottle has a code that starts 26, then you know if was produced and bottled in Michigan. The remaining three digits in the code correspond to the specific facility where the milk was processed and bottled within the state.

The milk campaign also represents a unique partnership between Cultivate Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). When Cultivate Michigan decided on milk as one of 2015’s featured foods, UDIM made a natural partner as they were already active in promoting Michigan milk in PK-12 schools across the state. UDIM was able to provide assistance with the development of the milk marketing materials and local sourcing information. Cultivate Michigan is also partnering with UDIM to provide a hands on learning experience through a dairy farm and milk processing tour later this year.

Don’t forget that Cultivate Michigan will be highlighting three more featured foods for 2015: peppers, winter squash and dry beans. To ensure that your institution is purchasing local peppers look for the Cultivate Michigan Pepper Guide and other promotional materials in the coming weeks. The pepper guide will be “stuffed” with flavorful recipes to incorporate into your cafeterias as well as sourcing information, storage tips, and nutrition facts. Cultivate Michigan is a project managed by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN). MFIN is co-coordinated by the Center for Regional Food Systems and the Ecology Center with support from Michigan State University Extension.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate more local food into your institution, restaurant, or home, contact one of the MSU Extension Community Food System Work Team members serving your area of the state.

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