Collaboration in the Upper Peninsula: Four the Water

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.

Our mighty Superior is, by surface area, the world’s largest freshwater lake, containing 10% of the worlds fresh surface water. Coincidently enough, it also is the only Great Lake to host a shore in all three regions of the Upper Peninsula. I’ve been a Yooper my whole life, but now, after being with Taste the Local Difference for four months, I realize how little I know about the UP as a whole. As summer and the release of the 2018 Guide to Local Food approaches, I couldn’t be more excited to spend some time getting to not only see the sights of the Western and Easter UP, but getting to know the people who live there. I’m interested to see how the struggles of farmers, retailers, and chefs alike that affect our local food systems– and I’m most excited to see the fresh ideas and creative collaborations happening in our state from the shores of Superior to the border of Wisconsin.12

Speaking of collaborations, this last week has been a plethora of inspiring individuals and organizations getting together to talk about issues in our communities. First, was an Earth Day Event hosted by Partridge Creek Farm, a non-profit farm in Ishpeming. The volunteer potluck was a way to jumpstart their summer programs. Thousands of plant-starts were transplanted, and green house shelves manufactured. Inside of the Elks Lodge, there was a potluck serving grass fed beef chili from Happy Day Farm.

Another great event was the showing of Wasted! The Story of Food Waste put on by the Marquette Food Co-op. The panelist included representatives from Ore Dock Brewing, the Executive Chef of Simply Superior at NMU, Partridge Creek Farm, Marquette Growth, and many more (header photo). The documentary touches on all the different points in which food waste occurs and focuses on interesting ways to combat it being done by different entities all around the world. Kudos to Simply Superiors beef heart and tongue tacos!

chicken liverLast, and most certainly not least, was the five-course drink pairing dinner put on by Iron Fish Distillery and The Marq restaurant in honor of Four the Water. My inner chef in me wants to spend paragraph after paragraph going into the detail of each dish describing everything from the smooth textures, to the near perfect presentation. But, I’ll keep in short and say that the thought and creativity put into sourcing and composing each dish, paired with the dynamic and balanced Iron Fish cocktails – was unforgettable. Part of what made the experience so special was hearing from the four gentlemen ready to take on a trip of a lifetime this summer. Ryan, Drew, Karol, and Jared plan to set sail May 16th and will paddle the 2,726 miles of Lake Superior shore in order to bring awareness to the health of our Great Lakes and showcase those doing conservation work in the region. Karol, who has been working in the kitchen of the Marq for three years, promised me photos of the meals while on their trip, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what Lake Superior serves them up for dinner. You can also show your support to the cause by grabbing a bottle of Superior Culture Kombucha who will be rolling out a new flavor and label to bring awareness to their project, coming to stores soon.

Cheers to the great work this past week in the Central UP, and to those in the Eastern and Western regions I’m excited to see you all soon! Events coming soon to our Facebook Page.

Alexandria Palzewicz is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and is currently in New Orleans soaking in a quick food-cation before heading to Rock River Farm for the summer season. Contact Alex at [email protected]