Locally grown, locally celebrated

Farmers, chefs come together for community potluck

Attendees of the Greater Marquette Area Farmer + Chef Potluck line up for food brought by local local restuarant representatives. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — The growing season in the Upper Peninsula is short, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of nutritious and tasty locally grown and raised food.

To celebrate U.P. farmers and the local restaurant representatives and chefs who cook with their ingredients daily, Farm Bureau Insurance – Scott Huber Agency, Taste the Local Difference, Birchmont Motel and the U.P. Food Exchange hosted a Farmer + Chef Potluck for the Marquette-area community on Wednesday at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. in Marquette.

The event was inspired by a potluck Alex Palzewicz attended for Alger County farmers.

Palzewicz, who serves as food coordinator for Taste the Local Difference Upper Peninsula group, said there is nothing to be accomplished at a potluck; it’s just about enjoying food and getting to know one another.

The event was also a celebration of the establishment of a Wednesday night Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, which also hosts a Saturday market.

Having a second market day means a bit more work for farmers, as they have to harvest more regularly and staff the market, but it’s also an opportunity for shoppers.

“With that Wednesday market, it’s an option for us to have fresh food during the week,” Palzewicz said. “Three or four days you might need to start replenishing your supply, well now you have that option.”

The event was also an opportunity to get farmers and chefs, the busiest people Palzewicz knows, to gather in the same room.

Buying local products means your food will last longer and it’s more nutritious, but the best part of buying local is the connection built between the farmer and consumer, she said.

“What’s really cool is the education and connection portion,” Palzewicz said. “That when a restaurant takes its employees out to farms and they get to meet farm employees and see where it’s coming from, all of a sudden your server is so stoked to sell that dish of food that’s being presented because they feel connected to it, and all of a sudden they’re sharing that connection with the customer and then all of a sudden something as mundane as eating is reminding you about where your food comes from, which is actually not mundane. The food is pretty exciting and miraculous and we don’t take that moment to appreciate it.”

Restaurateurs and chefs brought dishes to pass to “feed the farmers who feed us all.” Among the dishes were tabouli made by Harley’s using products from Seeds n’ Spores Farm, Michigan State University-Extension’s North Farm and the Marquette Food Co-op; toasted pretzel bites from DaH Pretzel Guys; northwoods shiitake “sushi” from Superior Culture, made with ingredients from various local farms; pulled pork from Digs Gastropub made with pork from Case Country Farm; bread from Marquette Baking Co., as well as a few other dishes inspired by local ingredients.

The potluck was a great networking event for chefs to meet the people growing the food they serve, Scott Huber of Farm Bureau Insurance said.

“There’s always this big push to know what’s on your plate and where it came from,” Huber said. “I think this is absolutely a phenomenal event where farmers can get introduced to different chefs and restaurants in the area and say ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing, this is what we have going on, and vice versa.”

Farm Bureau Insurance, a Michigan-based company, was started in 1949 mainly to help farmers cover the risks associated with growing food. Over the years it has evolved into a multi-line company covering life, commercial, auto and home insurance, but the company still insures 70% of the farms in Michigan, Huber said.

Agriculture and local farmers have shaped not only Michigan but the nation, and it’s important to celebrate those individuals, he added.

“It’s our community,” Huber said. “We’re here to support the local individual, from the mom-and-pop business next door to the farmer down the road.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.