Melanie Chasseur, MAEAP technician for the Chippewa, Luce, Mackinac Conservation District
Is there anything better than a fresh, seasonal tomato?
Torn from the vine, cut into quarters, with a simple pinch of salt and pepper; to be savored sitting on the porch in the warm, golden hours of a summer evening. During those slow, cool meals, have you thought about where your food is coming from? Who produces it and what impact can it have? Delicious local produce is a staple of Michigan summers, as are our refreshing streams, rivers and lakes that provide water for our outdoor recreation and unique farmlands.
Ensuring that we can enjoy the land and water that nourishes our food depends on the collaboration between consumers, producers and conservation experts to create healthy and sustainable environments.
As a consumer, you can use your purchasing power to show the people who grow your food that you support their work and value environmental sustainability. Taking advantage of our region’s many fantastic farmer’s markets is a great way to connect with local producers and ask questions about where and how your food is grown.
The towns of Bay Mills, Bayside, Citrus, De Tour Village, Engadine, Newberry, Les Cheneaux, Pickford and Sault Ste Marie all currently have weekly farmers markets and offer a wide variety of products, baked goods and animal products. . Many agricultural markets accept food aid services such as WIC Project Fresh, Market FRESH, SNAP and Prescription for Health.
Taste the Local Difference (localdifference.org) is an organization that provides hours, locations and information on local farms, markets, restaurants and businesses in the EUP. Michigan Grown, Michigan Great (michigangrown.org/) is a fantastic resource for learning more about foods and products made in Michigan.
Both organizations have user-friendly websites for learning more about seasonal shopping and recipes to try after a day at the market. Supporting Michigan’s food production in this way has a direct impact on our local communities and ensures that the money spent to buy a delicious fresh tomato goes straight to the farm it came from. This allows producers to invest their profits in maintaining nutrient-rich soil, better infrastructure for their business, and ultimately more nutritious food diversity for our community.
In addition to community support, farmers also need technical support. Growing food in EUP is no easy task. Harsh winters, drier growing seasons and rocky terrain do not always favor our northern producers. Many methods of food cultivation and animal husbandry depend on our natural environment, and with proactive management strategies, landowners can be better equipped to maintain the health and integrity of the lands on which they work and are surrounded.
Collaborating with local agriculture and natural resource experts can be a valuable tool in helping farms be resilient and sustainable. The Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District has a variety of professionals who can help producers improve water and soil quality, wells and manure storage infrastructure, and natural resource management plans.
The Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is a voluntary process offered by the district that can help producers work on environmental audits of their farms. Many growers already follow generally accepted Michigan farming practices, and working with an MAEAP technician can provide growers with information on local farming practices, risk mitigation, and best management practices for their land at no cost. This is a completely voluntary program that producers can participate in to protect the land and water where our food grows, which sustains our economy and benefits Michiganders and visitors alike. A MAEAP verification in any of the livestock, cropping, farm or forest, wetland and habitat systems lets consumers know that the farms they support care about their environmental impact and, therefore, therefore, of the community of which they are a part.
MAEAP recognizes products at all levels that care for and support the success of our local food systems in EUP. If you have any questions about the MAEAP or would like to schedule a free consultation, you can contact your local MAEAP technician, Melanie Chasseur at [email protected] or at 906.632.9611 ext. 8053. You can find more information about the MAEAP at maeap.org.