Michigan Land Use Institute

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Everybody Wins

March 25, 2009 | By Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The same thing is true of the many school districts across Michigan that are now beginning to serve local farm foods: It’s about healthier kids, not making their towns more competitive.

But the cumulative effect of these and other regional food initiatives is to build that sense of place—rural to urban—that Michigan must strengthen. These efforts do that by making new local commerce and community connections and by transforming diets, neighborhoods, and markets.

The opportunities presented here are not aimed at promoting one particular approach to farming, but at building new, more regional food systems that can benefit all of Michigan.

According to experts like Dr. Soji Adelaja, director of Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute, the new good-food system—growing like grass through cracks in our industrial and suburban pavement—is a strategic economic asset for the state. Michigan becomes stronger on the national and world stage as its individual communities and regions embrace this emerging economic opportunity as part of their overall strategy to build healthy, happening places.

Dr. Adelaja, one of Michigan’s economic revitalization gurus, says that building more cohesive and vibrant regions—made of downtown cultural centers that are well connected to suburbs surrounded by rural areas that provide food, recreation, and nature—is fundamental to assuring Michigan’s future success.

“Michigan’s historical lock on prosperity—its industrial infrastructure of capital, auto plants, skilled labor, and so forth—counts for less in the new, global economy,” says Dr. Adelaja. “The rules of success have changed.”

In this new era, success is much more about becoming a place where young people want to live, because their presence in turn makes it a place where companies looking for the best young employees will want to go. That means offering a great quality of life for everyone, and regional food systems can and should be an important part of that.

The time is right for Michigan to act on the economic development potential of building more regional food systems. Demand is strong. Supply is growing. New market infrastructure, such as distribution, is emerging. And support is coming from many directions.

Local, sustainably raised food can produce new jobs, build public health, and attract more family and business investment to Michigan as the state’s regions become more attractive places to live and work.

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