INTRO: Agriculture is Michigan’s # 2 industry. It generates $60 billion dollars a year. Yesterday at the Lansing Center, experts in agriculture, nutrition and health met to confer on what was billed the “seeds of prosperity.” One conclusion they reached is that agriculture has room to grow. As Chris McCarus reports, one way of doing that is by shortening the link between producers and consumers.
TRX1: In Oneida Twp west of Lansing, snow blows over last fall’s cornstalks and a farmer drives his tractor with organic feed for hogs. The 17 animals, small and large, come running out of their barn like faithful pets greeting their master. Cooperative farmer Jane Busch says where the pigs are going next.
AX1: “well they’ll stay here you know till they’re going to the processor. Um these guys over here they’ll go within 2 weeks. The 4 of them will go within 2 weeks.”
TRX2: Busch, her partner and 5 other local producers of beef, chicken and poultry have formed a cooperative. They need to share feeding and transport costs.
AX2: “Consumers want 1 or 2 porkchops. They don’t want a whole or half a hog. Or they want a pound of bacon. And to find a processor that’s licensed with the USDA, there’s very few of them.”
TRX3: They wish they could sell food right off the farm. But most items would be illegal.
In October, a report from The Michigan Food Policy Council said that the organic food industry is growing nationally by about 20% a year. The report says Michigan has 205 small organic farms and could capture a greater share of this market. Organic or not, people want to be in closer touch with the people that grow their food.. They want to know them. Usually that means a piece of meat or a vegetable is shortening its trip from the earth to the dinner table. Yet Jane Busch says the government is not helping.
AX3: “and there’s so much contradiction between state regulations and federal regulations and that’s what we’re having do deal with as independent small growers is that whole ball of regulation is a huge barrier. Even the regulators don’t understand.”
TRX4: At the conference yesterday put on by the Michigan Land Use Institute, some people said it IS getting easier to shorten the supply chain between producers and consumers. Atleast on the consumers’ end. Rosanne Ponkowski is with the Healthy Traditions Network.
AX4: “Right now we’re scheduling classes throughout the metro Detroit area. We have a series of 4 classes that talk about the nutritional void in America. What went wrong. We bring in speakers from all around the country who are experts in their field who talk about nutrition. And then we also have a farmers market connected with that where they can go and meet the farmers who are growing the foods they need and learn how they can get the foods all year round.”
TRX: Consumers are benefitting from fresh food in another way: through farm markets started right on hospital grounds. Dr. Preston Maring is a Detroit native who’s now chief physician at a California hospital. His farm markets have spread to 5 states, including this one. They’re bringing nutritious food where and when people need it most.
AX5: “Here in Michigan, the St. Johns health system in Detroit has started a farmers market down on riverview and Jefferson. Laura McCane up at Munson hospital in Traverse City has got local farmers coming into the cafeteria where fresh food is being used in the cafeteria. Linking good food to health care just makes good sense.”
TRX6: The pig farmer, Jane Busch, listened to all the speakers today. She is happy that people want food grown here in Michigan. She says the conference helped her realize that her small operation is connected to many issues: farmland preservation, health, nutrition, community and schools. She and 2 other coop members say those issues keep them going, not money.
AX6: “Ah see if we can make a buck. (Laughs) I guess it’s just the kind of work we love doing. How about you Sam? Always done it that’s all. Too late to change now.”
TRX7: Hopefully it’s not too late to make a living at farming. Because having access to healthy food is something the rest of us can’t live without.
ForMichigan Now I’m Chris McCarus