Local Food Communities are going Virtual

For me, spring is often the time spent finalizing the plans for the summer ahead. In the Upper Peninsula, it means the weather is finally suitable for traveling and visiting farms, and the past few years, the end of May magazine “Release Party Tour” has become one of my favorite traditions. This spring though, is much different than any other we’ve experienced. Life itself, is different with the spread of the coronavirus. Although no Zoom call can ever replace face to face interactions, I’ve been inspired by the virtual communities that are keeping us together while we stay apart.

The Upper Peninsula Food Exchange(UPFE) is my close-to-home example that wasted no time in offering a space for farming communities to connect. Abbey Palmer of Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), with the help of six other UPFE committee members from different organizations, came together to offer regional Community Farmer & Grower Check-ins. Each region has adapted in their own way, but all provide a space for updates, offers, needs or requests. You can learn more about these check-ins and how to attend by signing up for the U.P. Food Exchange Newsletter

Statewide networks, like the Michigan Local Food Council Network, who once provided monthly meetings, very quickly pivoted to provide members a weekly opportunity for updates and connections, helping many of our state’s food councils manage staying on top of all the newly presented information each week.

Some folks from Michigan Food & Farming Systems, MSUE Center for Regional Food Systems and Taste the Local Difference also created a statewide CSA Network last month, a facebook page to help educate and connect consumers to CSA’s in their regions. The team even hosted an interactive Zoom call thanks to their sponsors at Greenstone Farm Credit Services and Farm Bureau Insurance, providing one-on-one CSA consultation support. 

Other businesses adapt by hosting large virtual events, allowing communities to feel connected and celebrate together. Good news, TLD is going to join in as well! We’re celebrating our statewide 2020 Guide to Local Food with a virtual release party on June 14th! Find more details here. You can rest easy knowing you’ll be able to cheers your fellow local food enthusiasts and celebrate your community’s local food system in a whole new way. 

Alex Palzewicz is the U.P. Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and don’t be surprised to see her cooking on a screen near you!