Highlights from Farm to Institution Programs at GL Expo

Visit from Nessa Richman provided opportunities for learning and collaboration for Great Lakes Farm to Institution stakeholders.

For several years the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN) has held learning opportunities as part of the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo. For the first time in 2017, MFIN welcomed a speaker from out of state to share perspectives on their Farm to Institution work and allow for opportunities to collaborate, cross-polinate and network.

Nessa Richman, the Director of Research and Evaluation for Farm to Institution New England (FINE), was the featured speaker for the annual GL Expo Farm to Institution session. While Ms. Richman’s visit only lasted a day and a half, it was packed with presentations, networking and sampling of local eats with MFIN staff and supporters.

The first event on Ms. Richman’s packed schedule included a special presentation highlighting FINE’s work around food hubs and farm to institution supply chains. The event was jointly hosted by MFIN and the Michigan Food Hub Network. Participants were invited from both networks and included a number of Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems Educators, representatives from the Center for Regional Food Systems, staff from several of the state’s food hubs as well as other farm to institution partners and stakeholders.

The event provided an opportunity for Ms. Richman to not only present her work from New England, but also allowed for discussion with attendees around the similarities of the two regions. Both Michigan and New England share commonalities in their geographic size, population distribution and concentration, and isolation from major transportation routes. This results in similar challenges for both regions in developing the necessary infrastructure to create successful farm to institution programs. It also presents opportunities for learning from the other’s strategies, ideas and initiatives.

After the joint presentation event, the group continued the discussion at the annual Michigan Food and Farming System’s Meet the Buyers Event and eventually at dinner. The rest of Ms. Richman’s visit including her presentation at Great Lakes Expo can be found in part two of this article.

The Michigan Farm to Institution Newtork is coordinated by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems with support from Michigan State University Extension.

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