This summer, I was the catering manager for Rock River Farm, a flower farm in the central U.P. They are focusing their efforts on flower production, so they don’t need my services in 2019. After being asked a few times if I’m sad they are done catering, here’s the truth: I’m stoked to see farms find their niche. This said, I will be going back next summer in the same way I got started there: as a volunteer who is in it for the beautiful drive, lack of cell service, the company and inspiration they provide.
As December speeds by, we rush to ready ourselves for the holidays. Once the new year arrives, our growers and producers will jump right into planning and preparing for the 2019 season. I myself am already dreaming of summer harvests. With preparation approaching, this month seemed like a great opportunity to introduce a new resource to Upper Peninsula Farmers: Landen Tetil, the new Produce Safety Technician for the UP region.
Where are the young people? It’s a question I have been asked a lot this past year as Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference.
To get answers, I turned to an organization called 40 Below in Marquette County. The group was created in 2010 as a way for professionals under the age of 40 to come together through networking and professional development opportunities. The group hosts fun events, puts on conferences and encourages young adults to volunteer in the community.
MQT Local Food Fest Statistics
•7 Northern Michigan University Hospitality Management Alumni Chefs
First Place & People’s Choice Rory Shimp of Spiaggia in Chicago
MAD Rabbits Farm, Daggett
•3 NMU Hospitality Management Faculty
•5 NMU Hospitality Management Alumni Coordinators
•10 NMU Student Volunteers
•3 Outstanding Community Volunteers
•Over 10 indispensable Sponsors
•Over $500 spent on a UP Food Exchange Purchase from UP Farmers
•Over $1,100 spent on local food via direct farmer & producer purchases
•11 UP Harvest Basket Entries raising a total of $615
•$1,100 spent on local live entertainment
•$400 spent on other local specific businesses
•$150 spent on local decor; flowers & produce
•Purchases made from over 20 local farmers, and 6 local producers
•14 Different Locally Focused Chef Dishes
•Over 30 Door Prizes from Local Businesses
•Over 200 Attendees – plus kids!
$1,850 Raised! – THANK YOU!
I had this vision for the MQT Local Food Fest, and that vision is not what I saw this past Saturday at Barrel + Beam Brewery, in Marquette, MI. What I saw when I took a moment to step onto a hay bale and look over the crowd was so much grander. Since I have become a part of the Taste the Local Difference Team, I’ve had the honor of traveling and working with some incredible people including chefs, farmers, local business, different organizations, health professionals, brewers, and everyday people who are passionate about local food. This past Saturday, I got them all in the same room. I wish I could write a novel so I could tell every small story and highlight every relationship, because each one give me more and more confidence in the success of Local Food Systems here in the UP.
I think the most important message of our event wasn’t just to support local food, but to honor and respect the people and careers connected to food. I started raising animals at the age of 5, and started working at a local resort at the age of 16. I don’t mention this because I want to prove that I have experience, I mention this because since then, I’ve been a first hand witness of the struggles, successes, ups and downs of people who work in careers surrounding food. Late nights washing dishes, long days planting in the sun, hauling hundreds of pounds of produce to and from market, 16 hour days all on your feet, high stress situations – and these are just some of the experiences people in our industries encounter daily. These situations will always be a part of life for many of us – but the point I want to make is that healthy and delicious food, purchased from local farmers, producers, and chefs is to be honored and respected. A lot of work goes into something that we then place into our body – a very intimate experience and decision that affects your own health and wellbeing, along with the wealth of your own community.
I am proud to say we raised over $1,800 at our event, and that $300 will go to sponsor a Garden Bed through Partridge Creek Farm, a non-profit farm working on Farm-to-School programs and community garden projects in Ishpeming. We are also excited to donate $150 to the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market Power of Produce Program. Monetarily, our event was a success, but more importantly we were able to get some important conversations started and some crucial connections made.
Personally my favorite part was how this event helped put a little glimmer of light back into the eyes of people that mean so much to me and the Local Food Movement. I saw so many smiles, hugs, high fives, so much teamwork, collaboration and most of all celebration. So thank you again to our amazing sponsors: Ojibwa Casino, Marquette Food Co-op, Radio Results Network, Barrel + Beam, NMU College of Technology and Occupational Sciences, NMU Alumni Association, UP Health & Happiness Magazine, Travel Marquette, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, the Marquette Chamber of Commerce, Econo Foods and last but not least – Taste the Local Difference for all your support, and helping us make our event a success.
Stay tuned for details on next year!
Alex Palzewicz is the UP Local Food Coordinator. Contact her at email@example.com
When we look back through the history of festivals, events or gatherings related to farming, food, and harvests – you’ll find that each will have their own version or interpretation of what that celebration represents. From the ancient sacrifices in honor of Greek gods, to our modern-day hometown harvest festivals – you won’t find one occasion quite the same. One contributing factor to those differences, is location. A harvest festival in Spain often highlights grapes, where here in Michigan we celebrate cherries and blueberries. Our geography and local climate largely determine when we hold these events and what they celebrate. Another important piece is the people. Throughout history cultural influences such as religion, art, politics, and business have shaped rituals that find their way into being. As time goes on, activities evolve, disappear, grow, and sometimes become honored by tradition. Many cultures mention in their own ways, the importance of coming together as a group, family or community and the vital social connection these moments bring.These same reasonings can be applied to the MQT Local Food Fest,
What is kombucha exactly? The simplest answer is “fermented tea” – a statement that rarely encourages a first time sipper to indulge in the sweet and tart flavors that the fermentation process produces. I fell in love with the drink myself when living in Seattle, one taste-bud-convincing sip at a time. The beverage was different, and I can’t lie and say that I was crazy about the stuff on day one – but as time went on I found myself using it to quench that desire for a sweet and flavorful beverage. Years ago, I remember visiting the UP from Seattle, and not being able to find Kombucha in the stores at all. However, in the last few years, the UP has gained some fantastic brewers who are changing the local culture.
When I say the words “county fair,” what comes to mind? For me there is nostalgia that rolls in as I think of my own Menominee County Fair at Shakey Lakes Campground in Stephenson, Michigan. There, I competed in animal showmanship for multiple species, entered crafts and photos, rode my bike like a hooligan, and made endless campfire delicacies like smores and pudgie pies.
I can not believe the month of May has come and gone. I have a sinking suspicion that this long Upper Peninsula winter caused us all to feel the anxiety that is lost time. I moved out to the farm (Rock River Farm) in Chatham on May 9th and the anxiousness of a late spring caused me to jump into work right away. The greenhouse was full, the kitchen in disarray, and snow was still standing in some places – but somehow, collectively working towards the challenge that was catching up (a quest to regain our lost time), we were able to cross task after task off the list. May 26th marked our first day of the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market as well as our own farm’s first catering of the season. Now that the dust has settled from our crazy weekend, I think we all are able to see how much we have accomplished these past few weeks – and we are stoked. We’ll never get that lost time back, but we catch up, we relax, reflect, and we get inspired to do more.
I remember how excited I was to first see the ocean when I was younger. It was an experience that I had been missing out on my whole life, something others write about in poetic ways. When I finally got the chance to make it to the eastern shore and see the ocean – the moment was a bit flat. Although it’s beauty was undeniable, I didn’t find myself as moved as I had anticipated. It didn’t feel any more epic than my day to day life around The Great Lakes. I guess that must have been it; although unique and breathtaking in its own way, the ocean experience had been damped by my relationship with Lake Superior.