MDARD visits family owned farms in Marquette County

Director Gary McDowell made stops at Seeds & Sports Family Farm and Partridge Creek Farm.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 7:21 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration said keeping Michigan sustainable starts with food security for U.P. residents.

In a statement made in March, Gov. Whitmer emphasized the importance of giving Michigan residents affordable access to healthy food. On Wednesday, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell visited a family-owned farm trying to do just that.

Seeds & Spores Family Farm in Chocolay Township was the first stop Wednesday for McDowell on a tour across the state visiting food and agriculture businesses. McDowell also visited Partridge Creek Farm in Ishpeming on Wednesday.

Seeds & Spores Family Farm grows fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, hemp and other plants. It also raises beef, pork and eggs. It accepts orders on its website and sells items at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“We directly market all of our food right here in the Marquette area, so most of it is probably eaten in Marquette County,” Seeds & Spores Family Farm Co-Owner Jeff Hatfield said.

Seeds & Spores is just one of the hundreds of family farms feeding people across Upper Michigan. McDowell added that these farms are crucial to maintaining the U.P.’s food security.

“Gov. Whitmer created the Food Security Council in 2020 and one of its newest recommendations is to give people better access to food that is created and processed locally so that we are not reliant on a handful of corporations that control our food,” McDowell said.

Hatfield added that he believes farms like his to be of ever-growing importance to rural areas like Marquette County and Upper Michigan as a whole.

“The local food economy is extremely important,” Hatfield said. “We see all the shake-ups in the global supply chain and food is definitely one of those things being affected. I think local food production is essential.”

Hatfield led McDowell around Seeds & Spores Family Farm Wednesday to explain how it operates. Hatfield emphasized that Seeds & Spores Family Farm prides itself on raising healthy animals and growing on healthy soil, something McDowell said he greatly appreciates.

“I have the highest respect for their farm,” McDowell said. “I know how hard they work, and their commitment to the land and to healthy food is incredible.”

MDARD granted $100,000 to Partridge Creek Farm in collaboration with Ishpeming Public Schools to create an intergenerational farm to teach students how to grow and raise healthy foods. MDARD also gave $53,400 to Seeds & Spores Family Farm in 2016 to continue providing high-quality food for Marquette County. Seeds & Spores Family Farm used this grant money on a kitchen to make specialty foods such as sauerkraut, jam and syrup.

“MDARD did help us develop a licensed food processing kitchen and that has enabled us to do some value-adding to our products and expand our repertoire,” Hatfield said.

McDowell said the U.P. is lucky to have these small farms, adding that MDARD plans more grants in the future for others.

“We are just so fortunate to have people like this in the Upper Peninsula, this is going to be a larger part of our economy,” McDowell said.

McDowell emphasized that this is all part of its new focus on developing rural Michigan alongside the creation of the Michigan Office of Rural Development.

“We are going to be working on every aspect of rural development,” McDowell said. “Our office is all about creating rural prosperity here in areas like Upper Michigan so that they are not left behind the rest of the state.”

Farms like Seeds & Spores and Partridge Creek Farm contribute to a sustainable Upper Michigan. You know what you are buying is fresh and it reduces our dependence on a global supply chain, which is often unreliable.

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