County board OKs Local Food Supply Plan

MARQUETTE – The Marquette County Board recently approved a Local Food Supply Plan as a chapter of the Marquette County Comprehensive Plan.

The Marquette County Planning Commission adopted the plan by resolution following a public hearing in September. Comments from the hearing were included in the appendix section of the plan. County board approval followed in late February.

“The topic came to the planning commission’s attention as there’s community gardens and greenhouses, hoop houses, that kind of thing that’s going on, the Marquette Food Co-Op has a lot of local food initiatives and so the planning commission thought it would be appropriate to create a guiding document for the county relating to that,” planner Thyra Karlstrom told the county board. “The plan itself is an educational tool, it focuses on what a local food system is, what the challenges and barriers and limitations that we have here growing food (are), what are some kind of things that we can do to increase food production and at the government level all the way down to just a local citizen.”

On its website, the Marquette County Planning Department said: “A strong local food system offers multiple benefits to the Marquette County community including, but not limited to, an improved local economy, health, access to fresh food and food security.”

The website said a necessary step in strengthening the local food system is to evaluate policies and regulations to ensure that they are local food friendly. The Marquette County Planning Commission will reference the Local Food Supply Plan to advise decision makers regarding local food systems.

The Local Food Supply plan is intended to be an educational tool and a mechanism to increase awareness as to how a strong local food system benefits the community.

“There’s a lot of initiatives that are going on right now,” Karlstrom said. “And it’s pretty exciting.”

As examples, she mentioned Chocolay Township’s recent approval of a farm incubator project on township property and planning staff serving on the U.P. Food Policy Committee, which is getting educational tools together to send out to local government on ways they can strengthen the local food system through policy and regulation.

The plan concludes there are multiple benefits of improving the local food system in Marquette County and that the level of awareness of food distribution and local food supply by people and governments impacts the local economy.

“Revenue from the sale of food grown locally is put into the pocket of one of our farmers,” the plan stated. “The majority of that money is likely to be reinvested into our community.”

The plan is available on the Comprehensive Planning Documents page of the Marquette County website found at: www.co.marquette.mi.us/departments/planning/index.php.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.