Cultivating local farm economies


Preserving farmland requires flexibility and innovation in local government planning and zoning to allow for farm income diversification.

Michigan State University Extension, Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Little Traverse Conservancy, the Farm Bureaus of Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet, and the Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan will present Cultivating Local Farm Economies at North Central Michigan College’s Library Conference Room on Monday, Sept 9, 9am to 1pm, to educate farmers and local government officials about economic opportunities on the farm. The aim is to help find common ground in the differing perspectives between finding new markets that keep farming alive while protecting the health and safety of residents through local rules and zoning ordinances.

A need for the meeting rose because farmer entrepreneurs are seeking ways to increase revenue streams locally, regionally, nationally, and globally amid the changing landscape of markets and even an evolution in what it means to farm.

Larry Dyer, of the Local Food Alliance says, “Developing on-going relationships with customers is a key marketing strategy for many area farmers. That often entails incorporating non-traditional activities on farms for those customers. We need policies in place that enable these activities and recognize their importance as genuine farming practices.”

Wendy Wieland, of the MSU Extension Community, Food and Environment Institute and MSU Product Center Innovation Counselor, says, “Things like on-farm markets, wineries, cideries, hay rides, U-Picks, corn mazes, apple or garlic or pumpkin festivals, they all have something agricultural at their core. They help build that relationship between the farm and the customer, and when done best, allow for both appreciation and education, or ‘edutainment.’”

Officials, farmers, and interested residents are invited to learn about regulations and policy best practices related to some of the most popular farm diversification strategies, including:  Agritourism, Value-Added Opportunities, and Conservation Easements. The cost is $20/person. Sign up by Sept 6, 2019, at https://events.anr.msu.eduCultivating_Local_Farm_Economies/

The Local Food Alliance brought the workshop to Petoskey after seeing it offered in other towns around the state — Traverse City, Chatham, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

The Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan works to enhance the culture of local food and farming in the Northern Farms Foodshed.

Contact Michelle Hamilton of MSU Extension at 231-348-1770, or Larry Dyer of Local Food Alliance, 231-881-2784 for more information.


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