Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is far from an agricultural paradise. Long winters and a short growing season characterize this secluded rural region that points northwards into Lake Superior. To the average consumer, farm-fresh foods can be hard to find. However, due to the local traditions of self-reliance and subsistence farming, there are a number of small producers scattered throughout this area. Gorgeous produce, grass-fed beef, honey and maple syrup are just some of the crops and livestock available locally.
Keweenaw Food Day aims to connect these oft-overlooked small producers with additional consumers in order to strengthen the local food system and improve the health of residents. Through a series of events designed to encourage conversations about access to real food, Keweenaw Food Day will educate the public about the many opportunities to procure food locally.
The Street-side Cooking Demo on October 24 will give patrons of downtown Houghton an opportunity to learn about preparing healthy meals. Attendees of this event, hosted by Portage Health Executive Chef Mark Pitillo, will take home simple recipes and new flavors on their taste buds. Also on Food Day, the afternoon Eat Real Educational Market will showcase of community food producers and distributors, and feature food samples, growing methods and food preparation techniques. The evening will end with a showing of the film ‘Dirty Work: The Story of Elsie’s Farm’. Lastly, the Harvest Feast on October 26 will offer an opportunity for the community to share a farm-fresh meal and contribute to the local food bank. These events will be punctuated by a Farm to School week in local elementary schools.
The Keweenaw Food Day efforts will raise community awareness about the many wonderful products that are locally grown or made. The goal is to integrate food, health, taste and education in a way that will engage and inspire new buyers to seek out local products. We hope that as individuals, families and institutions begin to demand more fresh & affordable food, a regional food system will develop to support sustainable, multi-season food production.
The Keweenaw Food Day events are hosted by a group of diverse partners that includes the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, Portage Health, the Keweenaw Co-op, the Portage Lake District Library, Houghton Police Department and local community gardens.
Sara Salo is the Health Education Coordinator at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, MI. She recently organized and completed the School Food Tour: a 5,000-mile bicycle ride around the country promoting healthy eating in schools.