This is Part Three of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year.
In parts one and two of the essay, Bates first describes his journey On Becoming A Farmer and then begins to demonstrate the lessons of Scale and Perspective learned from hands-on experience working at large farms in the US and elsewhere.
Part Three: Making a Choice for Our Community
I think prosperity is defined by a community’s well-being. At Bear Creek, we are invested in our community and hopefully our community in us. We won’t relocate our factory tomorrow, and in the meantime, we shop locally, bank locally, ensure locally, employ locally. We teach others how to grow, and we welcome strangers to our farm.
We celebrate the deliciousness of our food, and we respond precisely to the needs of our community.
Nearly 15 years ago Epicure Catering was born of a desire to showcase the best artisanal products our region has to offer. In a rented commercial kitchen, we gathered our cook friends and set to work creating menus highlighting producers and embodying the “farm to table” movement; a concept and practice that was just beginning to emerge in our area at the time. Our foundation was a duty to source from and support our local economy, and it remains the same today.
This is Part Two of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year.
In Part One: On Becoming A Farmer, Bates describes some of the influences in his life that led him to become an organic farmer. In this Part Two, he details an eye-opening journey that took him to a variety of farms around the world, learning what he could about the differences that scale makes in farming practices. And that, all in all, the farmers he worked with are not that different than him!
Part Two: Scale and Perspective
We used to drive to the beach every year on the 4th of July and pass through the vast cornfields of Delaware. You may not have expected me to say Delaware, being that we’re in the Midwest, but at a certain scale, we become numb to the scale regardless of size – more on that later.
Landen Tetil became the first farmer apprentice at Michigan State University’s North Farm in Chatham three years ago. The program aims to increase local food production in the Upper Peninsula and each year farmer apprentices begin in mid-March.
Ever wonder why a restaurant and market in northern Michigan would undertake the overwhelming task of transitioning to nearly 100% farm-to-table? After all, “locally grown” takes on a whole new level of difficulty in our arctic locale.
Amical has been open since 1994, but I first became truly conscious of the local food availability in the late 90’s. Amical started to take off when we dropped the quick service cafeteria concept completely in 2001. Our menu began to evolve and the Cookbook Dinner Series was getting some attention. The popularity of the Food Channel, celebrity chefs and quality of the published cookbooks had a lot to do with it as well. I remember Newsweek magazine did a cover feature on the Farm to Table movement. Then I realized it was a full-blown, across the board, nationwide shift in dining habits. It wasn’t just for the fine dining aspect of the restaurant industry, this included just about everyone.
A cooperative living community of farm workers, food service employees, culinary students, agri-business entrepreneurs, and other local food and farming partners could address the intersection of several problems and potentials related to affordable housing in our region. This living community would be open to anyone involved in or serious about getting involved with local food work, and could help lay the foundation for a new generation of farmers.
Ypsilanti Food Co-op is known for providing value, quality food and knowledge to consumers. With 60 solar panels on our roof, we are known for being dedicated to creating sustainability of the environment and our local economy. We are connected with families whose children have grown up to become staff. We add value to our small community.
And we sell a full line of groceries in a small converted industrial space in historic Depot Town, Ypsilanti. Our focus is on organic, healthy, fair-trade and local foods.