Food Producers

Marquette County and its surrounding region are home to several food producers.  It is essential to realize that a large tract of land is not necessary to produce food.  In fact, food can be produced on varying sizes of land, including a small urban lot.  Food may be produced for family sustenance or for commercial purposes, and the operation may focus on a single crop or be highly diversified.

Food Processors

For the most part, processing of food is required to take place at a licensed facility.  The State of Michigan regulates such facilities in order to assure health and safety of the public.  The Food Law, Public Act 92 of 2000, is an act to codify the licensure and regulation of certain persons engaged in processing, manufacturing, production, packing, preparing, repacking, canning, preserving, freezing, fabricating, storing, selling, serving, or offering for sale food or drink for human consumption.

Not all food processing is regulated by Michigan’s Food Law.  Individuals can process food for their personal consumption.  The Michigan Cottage Food Law, Public Act 113 of 2010, also exempts non-potentially hazardous foods that do not require time and/or temperature control for safety to be produced in a home kitchen of the person’s primary domestic residence.  Direct sale to customers at farmers markets, farm markets, roadside stands, or other direct markets is permitted.  The Act includes a $15,000 annual gross sales cap.  The Cottage Food Law provides opportunity for small scale food producers to operate a food business without having to go through the initial process of becoming a licensed food processing facility.

The Cottage Food Law may provide a “stepping stone” for introductory food producers, but it does not assist those who choose to make a living through meat production.  There is only one meat processing facility in the region.  This is a limiting factor to increasing the amount of local meat production and supply in the area.

Food Distribution

Food distribution is the “middle man” between the processor and the consumer.  Transportation, storage, restaurants, retail, and institutional facilities should all be considered as components of the distribution of food. The farmers markets, scattered throughout Marquette County, can be considered temporary distribution centers of locally grown or made products.  The producers transport their goods to the market and the consumers buy them.  A roadside stand is another example of food distribution in a simple form.  Grocery stores and restaurants are considered part of the food distribution system.  They distribute food to the consumer.

Food Consumption

We need to ingest food in order to survive.  There are several platforms in which food is consumed.  Locally-produced foods can be incorporated in all platforms of food consumption, although there is a varying degree of complexity to do so.

Household level-The household level is the easiest platform to incorporate locally grown foods.  Either from a household garden or a nearby farm, it is not difficult to plan meals for the household size.

Restaurants- Using locally-produced foods is a bit more challenging for restaurants than it is for households, although there are several doing so in Marquette County.  Challenges include the need to purchase large quantities of uniform and consistent product and the need to modify menu options in order to be in harmony with local food harvest schedules.  Relying on product packaging and labeling to meet safety regulations is also a challenge.

Institutions- In the context of this Plan, institutions are locations preparing and serving food to a large number of people on a routine basis.  Examples of institutions include, but are not limited to, schools, hospitals, incarceration facilities, and senior care facilities.  Institutions have the same challenges as restaurants only they are magnified.  Generally, institutions serve a greater mass of people and therefore, require more product and have more regulation.  Institutions in Marquette County use little, if any, locally-produced food because the amount they need typically cannot be met by one producer or even a group of producers.  Another serious roadblock to institutions partnering with local food producers are the regulations that are currently in place.

Public Events- Marquette County is home to several annual festivals in which food and drink is served to thousands of people.  These events provide an opportunity for vendors to use local products.  For example, in September 2012, the 4rd Annual U.P. Beerfest took place in the City of Marquette.  This festival is an excellent example of highlighting locally produced drink.  In this case all breweries at the festival are from Michigan.  Other events, such as the international food festival and the seafood festival, may have potential to incorporate locally grown ingredients.

Food Recovery

Food consumption is not the last step in the food chain as many might think.  As consumers, Americans throw away a tremendous amount of “stuff” usually with little thought about where that “stuff” goes.  In Marquette County, our garbage goes to the Marquette County Landfill.

According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland,  Americans waste more than 40% of the food produced for consumption with an annual price tag of $100 billion.[3]  Practices such as food rescue and gleaning, the act of recovering leftover produce, set to recover edible food before it goes to waste.  Food banks often are involved in and reap the benefits of such practices.

It is estimated that approximately 60% of the trash brought to the Marquette County landfill is organic material which includes, paper, biodegradable materials and food waste.[4]  By composting organic materials, the volume of area needed to store garbage can be substantially reduced prolonging the life of the landfill.  In addition, composted organic matter can be added to soil improving the nutritional value in preparation for growing food.

[3]  Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters what can be done about it.

[4]Marquette County landfill paving the way for future of solid waste with one-of-a-kind wet process. Upper Peninsula’s Second Wave. 11/25/12.