In the Copper Country, local food is more than a movement – it’s a way of life. From a vibrant farmers market scene to fresh-caught fish, fine dining, and everything in between, the Copper Country is an extraordinary place to visit.
Flourishing Farmers Markets
The Copper Country is home to several remarkable farmers markets working hard to foster connections between local farmers, food producers, and the community. From the Ground Farmers Market Collective (FTG)is a noteworthy example of the Copper Country’s dedication to local food and community wellness. In their first year of operation, From the Ground saw three local markets (Calumet Farmers Market, Hancock Tori Farmers Market, and the Houghton Farmers Market) unite to create a collective community organization that prioritizes a thriving equitable local food system for all.
Long-time local food advocate and FTG board member Rachael Pressley highlights the impact collective action has on communities through food access programs:
“Over the last few years, we have started to understand what we have always known: our community has the power and right to transform our food system and define for ourselves how we want our food grown, shared, prepared, sold, and gifted. When our markets work together, the benefits are compounded for everyone involved. FTG Farmers Market Collective is working to address food insecurity, while also stewarding a marketplace that uplifts our local growers. The expansion of multiple food assistance programs across all three markets shows that having access to fresh local food should be the norm, not the exception to the rule.”
You can catch From the Ground and markets in Baraga, Chassell, L’Anse, Lake Linden, and South Range in full swing after the Fourth of July.
Fresh Caught Fish
With one glance at the stunning coastlines and signature shades of blue-green waters, it’s clear that Lake Superior lives up to its name. Aesthetic value aside, it’s what’s below the surface that draws anglers to the area every year. Lake Superior is home to over 80 species of fish, including favorites such as salmon, trout, walleye, northern pike, and of course, whitefish. Beyond Lake Superior, there are plenty of inland lakes to explore. You can find a diverse range of fish in Lake Manganese, Lake Fanny Hoe, Lac La Belle, Otter Lake, and Portage Lake. There are endless opportunities for fishers, whether you prefer coastline, chartering, kayaking, or ice fishing – the Copper Country has you covered.
Lake Superior offers exceptional quality when it comes to freshly caught fish but don’t worry, you don’t have to be an experienced fisherman to enjoy the taste of Superior fish. Fish markets such as Peterson’s, Keweenaw Fish Co., and Jamsen’s provide delicious freshly caught fish that keep people coming back year after year. For those that prefer to catch their own fish, Keweenaw Charter Fishing Co, one of several local fish charter organizations, can hook you up with some incredible fishing experiences on the spectacular Lake Superior.
Planning a trip to the Copper Country? Don’t miss out on these unique seasonal food experiences!
Late spring brings Smelt Runs for avid fishers. Keweenaw Bay in Baraga is an excellent place to seek out smelt – head to any number of feeder streams during April thaws for abundant fishing. While the State of Michigan recommends only 8 ounces of smelt consumption per month, this seasonal treat is freezer-friendly for up to a year – or until the next smelt run!
Summer in the U.P. brings unique foraging opportunities in the form of bright berries. Find thimbleberries, special to the U.P., on your way to a local waterfall, or by stopping in at the famed Jam Pot of Eagle Harbor. Not to be outshone, strawberries are available earlier in the summer and are celebrated every year at the Copper Country Strawberry Festival during the second week of July. Fresh blueberries are available for picking throughout the month of August, including Gierke Blueberry Farms in Chassell and Pancho’s Blueberries in Lake Linden.
Restaurants in the Copper Country serve innovative dishes and dining experiences that prioritize local ingredients. Milly’s serves Detroit-style pizza, featuring an astounding selection of local ingredients. Next to the register, Milly’s proudly displays the local farmers and businesses they support on a chalkboard. The extensive list highlights the community effort it takes to produce the perfect slice of pizza.
The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge adheres to a Slow Food culinary philosophy, with dishes that focus on ingredients, prepared simply to allow each to shine. Chef Widad “Wi” Mueller brings worldly influences to their Dining Room and Little Cabin Cafe for delicious dishes in a historic log cabin, surrounded by nature.
On the shores of Lake Superior, The Fitz offers the option to sit out on the porch with great barbecue and a glass of whiskey in hand. Beyond fantastic views, the Fitz, or Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Restaurant, also offers a great place to stay with newly renovated rooms – perfect for taking your Nashville Hot Chicken as takeout.
What’s on the menu for your Copper Country vacation?
Madelina DiLisi is the Western UP Farm to School Coordinator.