A Bite-sized Look at Progress on Farms and Farmers
This is the second in a five-part series updating readers on progress made in the five priority areas of the Michigan Good Food Charter agenda.
By: Rachel Kelly, Research Assistant, Center for Regional Food Systems
This is the second in a five-part series updating readers on progress made in the five priority areas of the Michigan Good Food Charter agenda. In March, we looked at progress on Good Food Access. With planting season underway and in anticipation of the upcoming bounty of Michigan produce, this week we’ll take a “bite-sized” look at the priority area of Farms and Farmers.
As it relates to farms and farmers, the Charter has set the following goals to meet or exceed by 2020:
- Michigan institutions will source 20% of their food products from Michigan growers, producers and processors,
- Michigan farmers will profitably supply 20% of all Michigan institutional, retailer and consumer food purchases and be able to pay fair wages to their workers,
- Michigan will generate new agri-food businesses at a rate that enables 20% of food purchased in Michigan to come from Michigan.
The Charter pursues ways to create new economic opportunities for farms and farmers by opening new market channels, supporting Michigan food and farm entrepreneurs, and reducing regulatory hurdles faced by local food and farm businesses.
The 2016 Good Food Charter report card contains updates on Michigan’s progress in all 25 agenda priority areas. Below are the 4 priorities that relate specifically to farms and farming, and examples of some of the successes in this area.
Priority 7 - Review and seek appropriate revisions to state and local land use policies to preserve farmland and blend protection with farm viability programs.
- In 2016, new legislation passed to help secure funding for Michigan’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program.
- Some townships have established dedicated millages for farmland preservation (two townships in Grand Traverse County, Ingham County, and several local governments in Washtenaw County) and Kent County leaders wrote a report about the importance of agribusiness to the economy in their region, which was adopted by the County Commission.
- Heart of the Lakes, the state association of Michigan’s land conservancies, published a map showing Michigan’s most vulnerable farmland along with advocacy tools for how to support farming by preserving farmland.
- The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) continues to provide support and technical assistance to help Michigan farmers protect their farmland and the environment while continuing to remain productive. Growers who follow MDARD’s environmental agriculture guidelines can obtain MAEAP verification, and a total of 3,416 farms could claim that status in 2016.
Priority 14 - Set targets for state-funded institutions to procure Michigan-grown, sustainably produced products.
- Cultivate Michigan is a voluntary campaign that helps Michigan institutions track their local food purchases. Sixty organizations have pledged that by 2020, 20% of the foods they purchase will be Michigan-grown.
Priority 19 - Direct state agencies to maximize capital access through state-sponsored programs that provide farm financing.
- The Michigan Good Food Fund offers loans and other financing services to fund good food businesses in Michigan.
Priority 20 - Ensure that all state and higher education business, work force and economic development programs include farming and agriculture in their target audiences for programmatic development, training, investment and technical assistance.
- In 2015, a Michigan chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of America was established. The Coalition helps veterans learn how to farm as a means of supporting themselves after their military service has ended. Michigan Food and Farming Systems’ Veterans in Agriculture Network provides Michigan veterans with farmer-to-farmer support and statewide resources.
- The Michigan Economic Development Center (MEDC) has identified agriculture and natural resources as one of Michigan’s core industries. Along with MDARD, the two state organizations are creating an agriculture economic development strategy to guide their work and benefit Michigan agriculture.
- Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) created Bronson Healthy Living Campus and offers degree programs in Sustainable Brewing, Culinary Arts and Sustainable Food Systems. Other Michigan colleges offering food systems courses include Jackson College, Albion College, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University.
A note on measuring Charter progress: The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems continues to partner with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to implement a shared measurement system to enable partners across the state to collect similar data to better understand progress on key indicators for the Charter goals, both locally and statewide.