Despite Michigan’s short growing season, we are the second most agriculturally diverse state and 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. 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 a national nonprofit 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 partners with Fair Food Network to build awareness about Double Up Food Bucks in Michigan communities and to identify the barriers to, and opportunities for, local sourcing at 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.
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 in 2001 to over 250 today, making MIFMA’s work more important than ever. MIFMA supports farmers markets through state and federal advocacy, relevant training and education opportunities, communicating about policy and food safety regulations, and by helping markets accept 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.
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 and become a partner today 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, and cross promotion.
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.
For more than a decade, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems has advanced regionally rooted food systems through research, education and outreach. They accomplish their mission by facilitating networks (Michigan Farm to Institution Network, Michigan Farm to Early Child Care and Education Network, Michigan Local Food Council Network, Michigan Food Hub Network) that are foundational to Michigan’s culture of collaboration in food systems work. CRFS also coordinates the Michigan Good Food Charter – a guiding document developed by people and organizations across Michigan to advance 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 CRFS team at the virtual Michigan Good Food Charter Gathering Oct 13 – 15.
These five organizations are a handful of the many organizations and individuals across the Mitten State that are working hard to support a strong, resilient local food system. We are proud to work alongside these organizations to ensure Michigan is a place where local food businesses can thrive and all Michiganders have access to the healthy food they deserve.
Kelly Wilson is the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]
Find more great stories at www.localdifference.org/blog/