US(MI): Great Lakes Expo offering sessions on local food and farm-to-institution

The Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo is one of the larger events of its kind. Producers from across the Great Lakes and Midwest will gather in Grand Rapids, Mich. for three days to learn about the latest in fruit, vegetable and speciality crop production. While much of the educational sessions at Expo will be focused on the latest production methods and technologies, there will also be two midday sessions on, Wednesday December 11, 2013 that will allow Expo visitors to learn about local food systems and Farm to Institution work going on around the state.

The first of these two sessions will take place at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and will feature a lively panel discussion on the topic of innovative farm to institution programs. Panel participants include representatives from large, broad-line food distributors, a speciality distributor/food hub, institutional food service representatives as well as growers actively involved in farm to institution activities. This will give session goers a balanced view of farm to institution work form several areas of the supply chain and demonstrate several different ways for growers to get involved.

This is the third consecutive year that the Expo will feature a session on Farm to Institution work, however the previous two years presentations focused solely on Farm-to-School activities, so this will be the first year that participants will have an opportunity to hear about work being done in other institutions like hospitals. Members of the Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems workgroup have played an active role in the planning of this session, which is being hosted by the newly developed Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN). The MFIN was created as a way to bring together practitioners, advocates, educators, and researchers into a collaborative setting to move forward farm to institution work around the state.

The second Wednesday Expo session will focus on a more general understanding of the benefits of local community food systems through the MSU Extension Community Food Systems workgroup’s Understanding Community Food Systems Presentation. This presentation will touch on several topics including:

  • What is good food?
  • Social, economic, and environmental benefits of local food systems
  • Local food distribution through food hubs
  • And much more!

These two sessions will provide growers with valuable information that they can apply to their own farm businesses moving forward.

If you haven’t already registered for this year’s Great Lakes Expo, do not fear, registration will be offered on-site for each individual day as well as the entire conference. For more information on the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, please contact Garrett Ziegler at

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.

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