NWM Food System Sector Alliance will meet to foster regional economic development

The Northwest Michigan Agriculture and Food System Sector Alliance bi-annual meeting will discuss economic development and job creation in Michigan.

In hope of continuing to foster economic development and job creation in the Michigan region, the Northwest Agriculture and Food System Sector Alliance will convene at its third bi-annual meeting on April 26, 2012 at Northwestern Michigan College

This meeting will be held in the Oleson Center from 10 a.m. to noon.

The Alliance, which covers the Northwest Michigan Council of Government’s (NWMCOG) 10-county region, is the first of its kind in Michigan to focus on agriculture. It brings together stakeholders from the entire food system network such as growers, processors, preparers, packagers, distributors, servers and retailers. Part of the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network, the Alliance convenes local and regional farmers, businesses, government officials and others to engage in a collaborative process to support and create jobs and enterprises throughout the regional agri-food system, and to shape training and educational programs that support farm and food entrepreneurs and workers.

First, Ted Spitzer (Market Ventures Inc.), hired to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for the Grand Traverse Regional Market (food hub) at the Village Commons, will offer an overview of the project and a report on his initial findings from research and preliminary stakeholder interviews.

Second, Susan Cocciarelli (Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and NWMCOG), Brian Bourdage (Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy), and Tom Nelson (Leelanau Conservancy) will present findings of the recently completed Michigan farm succession study and present on model farm succession programs in Northwest Michigan.

Third, Jason Rowntree (Michigan State University) will offer a presentation on his successful NCR-SARE grant application, which seeks to develop a local pasture based beef production system for northwest Michigan. As the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network seeks to source 20 percent of the food that is consumed in the region from local sources, we will need to enhance livestock supply, and producer and culinary education. Rowntree will discuss his efforts to develop a pilot for a northwest Michigan beef production system by connecting area beef producers, local processors, distributors and retailers in order to begin to meet the 20 percent benchmark.

Finally, if you are a farmer we would love to pick your brain from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. before this meeting to get an idea of how a regional food hub could help your business increase profitability.