Despite Michigan’s short growing season, we are the second most agriculturally diverse state and are a leader in specialty crop (i.e. fruit and vegetable) production. Plus, we have the most farmers markets per capita and a large number of farmers who sell their goods directly to consumers. However, one of the most unique aspects of our food system is the strong culture of cooperation and collaboration among organizations and individuals working in local food systems. Convening regularly, it is common practice for organizations and individuals in these networks to work together toward shared goals. Taste the Local Difference works with many of these organizations on a variety of projects aimed at strengthening our local food system and helping consumers find local food.
Read on to meet some of the local food systems organizations TLD regularly works with!
Fair Food Network (FFN)
Fair Food Network is committed to growing community health and wealth through food. For over a decade, FFN has operated the Double Up Food Bucks program which matches, dollar for dollar, SNAP/EBT (Bridge Card) dollars spent on fruits and vegetables. Taste the Local Difference (TLD) partners with Fair Food Network to provide outreach about Double Up Food Bucks and to identify the barriers and opportunities of local sourcing for independent retail grocers.
Learn more about how Double Up Food Bucks works here. Interested in getting more involved? Offer Double Up Food Bucks at your market or store or help spread the word about this impactful program.
Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA)
MIFMA was established in 2006 to promote local food consumption in Michigan by connecting farmers and consumers at farmers markets. In the last ten years, the number of farmers markets in Michigan has grown from about 90 (2001) to nearly 250 (2021) thanks to MIFMA’s efforts. MIFMA supports farmers markets through state and federal advocacy, relevant training and education opportunities, communicating about policy and food safety regulations, and by assisting markets in accepting food assistance programs.
Since 2017, MIFMA and TLD have worked together to provide complementary support to Michigan farms and farmers markets through statewide marketing efforts, educational events and joint grant proposals.
Get to know Michigan Farmers Markets with MIFMA’s Find Your Market tool and explore their recipe library for inspiration on how to use your market haul.
Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS)
Historically, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), women, veteran and new farmers have been left out of federal farm support programs. MIFFS works to level the playing field by supporting these farmers in navigating cumbersome state and federal grant/loan applications, creating networks for farmers to connect to their peers, and providing guidance through GAP and other food safety certifications farmers need to access wholesale markets. MIFFS also hosts the annual Family Farms Conference each winter to foster connection and community amongst a diverse group of farmers and support organizations.
MIFFS and TLD collaborate on the Michigan Statewide CSA Network, various workshops and listening sessions, and more to support farmers, especially beginning and BIPOC producers, in connecting to important resources.
Sign up for the MIFFS newsletter to stay up to date on their work, the annual conference, and the critical resources available to support small farm success.
Michigan Good Food Fund (MGFF)
The Michigan Good Food Fund is a statewide loan fund that supports good food entrepreneurs – from restaurants and value added producers to farms – working to increase access to healthy food and spark economic opportunity in places that need it most. They also provide general business assistance in the form of workshops and business boot camps.
TLD and MGFF are referral partners and have collaborated even more during the pandemic through mini-grants for farmers, digital marketing technical assistance, cross promotion, and more.
If your food business is looking for financial assistance, or you know of one that is, fill out this form to learn more about MGFF opportunities.
MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS)
The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems was established in 2012 to advance regionally rooted food systems through research, education and outreach. They accomplish their mission by facilitating networks (Farm to Institution, Farm to Early Child Care and Education, Michigan Local Food Council Network, Michigan Food Hub Network) that strengthen Michigan’s culture of cooperation in food systems work. CRFS also supports the Michigan Good Food Charter – a guiding document for advancing a food system that supports food access for all, health equity, climate resilience,and farm and food business viability.
What to help plan the next steps toward Michigan’s good food future? Join the virtual Michigan Good Food Charter Gathering Oct 13 – 15.
These are just a few of the organizations in Michigan that make an impact on our local food system. We are proud to support their work!
Kelly Wilson is the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]
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