Local food summit convenes in Marquette

Local food summit convenes in Marquette

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula Food Exchange stopped in Marquette Wednesday for the second conference of its three-day “Together at the Table” food summit.

The group is using the annual event in part to update attendees about the status of local food initiatives across the U.P. Farmers and businesses joined tribal, school, university, and state representatives to hear the news about the local food system.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of new faces coming, so certainly local food is more than just a buzz word,” Marquette Food Co-Op general manager Matt Gougeon said. “It is a catalyst for economic development, a catalyst for better, healthy communities. The Upper Peninsula is actually seen as one of the leaders in the country in the establishment of a regional food system.”

The Marquette Food Co–Op and the Michigan State University Research and Extension Center in Chatham were among those who presented information on the programs they have been working hard on this year. These include expanding local food markets and the MSU Extension’s farm incubator program.

“What we’re most excited about is that our applications for the program are now open, we’re taking those, trying to enlist people for the 2015 season for our incubator program,” MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center North Farm manager Collin Thompson said.

“Really, there’s far more demand for local food than there is supply,” Gougeon added. “So we’re working very hard with farms to help them to increase their capacity. We’re building new markets. We’re building institutional markets for agricultural products in the Upper Peninsula, so that’s universities, hospitals, schools.”

The summit will make its final stop in Houghton Thursday to help spread the word about local food to the western Upper Peninsula.