Explore the importance of local food

November 23, 2021

I can't turn the news on in the morning without hearing the words shortage, supply disruption, cargo ships, inflation, or empty shelves. These terms carry even more weight when they are describing our food, something we all need in order to live.

The industrial food system we all helped create was shattered last year during worldwide shutdowns. Demand soared for food to consume in our own homes and completely stopped for the foodservice industry. This dramatic shift in our behaviors caused pressure on the system and empty shelves in the grocery stores, leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, and panic.

I will never forget the overwhelming response from our community during those couple of months. I was on the phone or computer communicating all day long and into the night for weeks just to barely keep up. My children ran around with babysitters who were suddenly out of school, while we all consumed ourselves with helping people understand and access the food we produce.

We moved more meat through our little on-farm store in one week than we did in a typical month. Our system was pressed, yet, we managed to keep food in our freezers and maintained animals on the ground for the future months. Hot items of bacon or pork chops were limited, but we had alternative meat cuts available such as cutlets, pork steaks, shanks, cottage bacon, and bacon ends n pieces.

The local food industry's most strained piece of the puzzle was felt by the people working with us. We needed more help than ever before to sustain through the instant demand. More people were needed to pack boxes, answer phones and create invoices. Luckily for us, folks were looking for things to do during the shutdown and didn't hesitate to help until we caught up, and implemented different processes to relieve some of that stress.

All of these past experiences contribute to where we are right now, still hearing and seeing shortages in all of our mass-supply systems. What can we as local producers offer to you that you are missing from the industrial food system? A consistent flow of credible information allows us to easily adapt.

A farmer, the person whose hands are literally growing your food, is involved in all decision-making and can provide you with information quickly. All the while, you can offer input to us which can be relayed directly to the farmer. You trust us to work hard producing food that meets your standards, and we trust you to participate, providing us with support and feedback to grow your food.

Through this communication, we've learned that diversity within our product line helps provide even more resilience. Having multiple sources for food you can trust allows us to navigate through any disruptions without completely shutting down, and gives us the ability to grow steadily with demand.

We maintain partnerships with two different Michigan fisheries, an egg producer, a cattle farmer, produce farms, bee-keepers, and sugar-makers in our neighborhood.

Thankfully, through this relationship, we can adapt quickly to sudden changes, and work through problems, together. There's a much bigger picture to the small-scale local food system, one that we believe will only grow in importance as time keeps on ticking.

Renee Robinson-Seelye

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