All you need to know about the 2019 MQT Local Food Fest!

Agriculture, Alex Palzewicz, Event, Find Local Food, Upper Peninsula

I sat down with Jesse Huff of Radio Results Network, one of our main sponsors, to discuss this year’s MQT Local Food Fest. After casual greetings, he started off with, “Wow, year three!” I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s crazy to think about how things have worked out. A simple conversation about getting NMU Hospitality Management together for an event of some kind has spiraled into an annual farm-to-table celebration, honoring and connecting links throughout the Upper Peninsula’s local food system, from farmers to eaters and everyone in-between.

Here are the details for this year:

Who: 

Our event is open to everyone who wants to celebrate local food with us!

What:

The MQT Local Food Festival is a celebration of all things local. The star of the show every year is always the NMU Hospitality Management Alumni Culinary Competition. This year we have eight chefs, four locals and four traveling from downstate & beyond. Each chef is asked to create two appetizers for the event, one vegetarian and the other is the chef’s choice. They will be judged on flavor, presentation, technique, creativity and most importantly on their utilization of local ingredients. Each year, we’ve been able to spend over $1,500 on ingredients sourced from the Upper Peninsula. The fun part is that the audience decides the best of the 16 appetizers and that chef gets their name added to our traveling trophy! 

The other big draw is our annual silent auction. It’s full of baskets featuring local goods and restaurant gift certificates, as well as baskets donated by local farms. We ask farmers to create a basket for the auction that best showcases their farm at the moment. From honey and jams, to fresh produce, and, of course, the big ticket meat basket with different cuts and protein varieties – the perfect way to fill your freezer for winter.

In addition to judging the culinary competition and browsing the silent auction, participants will be able to participate in local food trivia. Get the answer right and win stickers, temporary vegetable tattoos, beeswax food wraps and many more great prizes! Another great interactive piece is brought to us by the NMU Ecoreps who will be running our Waste Station. To encourage consciousness about our impact on the environment, the Ecoreps will be making sure all our waste goes to the proper place – landfill, recycle, or compost. This will be a great opportunity to ask questions on how participants can do the same at home. 

Thirsty? There will also be a cash bar serving Michigan brews, wines and cocktails. Need a minute to relax? Enjoy smooth music from a local artist in Harley’s Lounge downstairs! Want to come with the kids? We will have a kids activity room just down the hall from the event! There is more to share, but the best way to stay informed is to follow us on Facebook & Instagram

When:

Main Event: Saturday, October 12th from 4:00pm-7:00pm

Looking to celebrate local food all weekend long? Stop by the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market that morning from 9am-1pm at the Marquette Commons. The MQT Local Food Fest Advisory team will be able to direct you to restaurants around town that feature local on their menus. Some have even created a special local feature to show their support! Let’s drive as many sales to local farmers and producers as possible!

Where:

The Ramada Inn, Downtown Marquette. Come stay for the weekend and enjoy all that Marquette has to offer, or make us a stop on a UP extended vacation! 

Why:

There are a lot of reasons why this event happens. Three years ago, some of us Hospitality Management Alumni and Faculty started a conversation about finding a way to get everyone back together, to bring attention to the program, and to show students the possibilities that our profession offers, while also allowing them an opportunity to get real life experience by volunteering for the event. When the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market Manager, Myra Zyburt, heard about our event, she challenged me to make it a TLD Certified Local Food Event, and I accepted. The team grasped on too, and soon it became what make our event so unique. 

We want to highlight and honor all careers in food – from those who plant the seed, to the dishwasher that cleans your plate. My biggest why is that we’ve become so disconnected from the food we eat on a daily basis that we fail to see that all that goes into it, and I strongly believe a more centralized local food system will have a ripple effect that extends to larger problems our communities face. That being said, the work to get there isn’t easy and there isn’t a playbook to guide us – so this event is about getting individuals who have common interests, concerns and passions in the same room in hopes of continued collaboration and growth of our local food systems. Also, this event is an opportunity to give back! Profits from the event go to programs like Power of Produce which provides kids market cash to spend at the on fresh fruits and veggies and Partridge Creek Farm, a local non-profit that facilitates Farm to School Programs in Marquette County schools. 

Thanks: 

Last but not least, a big thank you to the MQT Local Food Fest Advisory Team on helping us make this year’s event bigger and better (and more organized) than ever before. Thank you to those of you who have attended in the past and helped us grow into a successful Marquette event! Thank you to the organizations that will be participating that day and a big thank you to our sponsors:

• Ojibwa Casino
• Huber Farm Bureau Insurance Agency
• Northern Michigan University College of Technology and Occupational Science
• Radio Results Network
• Travel Marquette
• The Marquette Food Co-op
U.P. Food Exchange
• Downtown Marquette.

Alex Palzewicz is the U.P. Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and the lead coordinator of the MQT Local Food Fest. Have questions? Want to get involved? Want to donate to the silent auction? Contact Alex: alex@localdifference.org or phone: 906.250.4507

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