Meadowlark Farm

Groundwork to Help Build Resilient Local Food Distribution Networks and Market Opportunities in 16 West Michigan Counties

April 11, 2023 |

Traverse City/Petoskey – Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities is pleased to announce it has received a multi-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to expand the resilience and scale of the local food economy in western Michigan.

For more than 20 years Groundwork has worked to create a thriving local food economy in northwest Lower Michigan. The strategy we developed included launching a local food marketing company, encouraging schools to purchase produce from local farmers, getting local food into grocery stores, restaurants, food pantries and hospitals, and working hard to build networks among the many partners needed to make a local food economy thrive.

Groundwork will now share that deep experience in 16 counties along the Lake Michigan coast, from the Mackinac Bridge to Holland, working with 36 stakeholder partners as a way to expand the local food economy in one of America’s iconic agricultural regions. The initiative will focus on five key stakeholder groups: producers, distributors, processors and aggregators, schools and (Early Child Education) ECE centers, and emergency food providers. Success will be shared as models for use by other regions across Michigan and the nation.

“Michigan has one of the richest and most crop-diverse agricultural economies in the United States,” says Jen Schaap, Groundwork Food & Farming Program Director. “We are so looking forward to working with the many, many partners it will take to make a local food economy thrive in this beautiful farming region surrounded by freshwater.”

Marty Gerencer, a long-time food and farming advocate and West Michigan Food Processing Association Executive Director, says, “We have so many outstanding growers in this region, but what we need to better establish is a network to connect them to the many available local markets and to expand those local markets. Building this network is what I’m most excited about when I think of this collaboration with Groundwork. Our farmers and food businesses, our families, our communities will all benefit.”

A thriving local food economy brings many benefits to the people of Michigan.

. Family farms gain financial stability

. Farmland stays in farming, sustaining our beautiful countryside

. Families eat healthier because the less food travels, the more it retains vitamins and other nutritional components

. Local economies are strengthened because food dollars stay in the local economy to pass through many hands

. Local food can help us build a more resilient and secure food distribution system because it does not depend on long, complicated, and vulnerable supply chains. Food security is national security, as we witnessed in the pandemic.

. The healthfulness of local food can help us address the many diet-related, life-threatening diseases that are plaguing our people, from children to elders—which will also help slow the skyrocketing cost of health care.Founded in 1995, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities pilots and spreads local-based solutions in local food, clean energy, and livable towns. Groundwork logo for story end