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Congress Connects Farms to School Cafeterias: Bill Previews Seeds of Prosperity Conference

BEULAH – Three Michigan congressmen are co-sponsoring innovative legislation that would break open new markets for the state’s blue-ribbon growers; supply fresher, healthier food to nearby school children; and help communities protect land from sprawling development.

The bill offers one excellent example of the many kinds of strategies that local and state leaders, economic developers, small business experts, farm and consumer interests, health professionals, and others will discuss at the statewide Seeds of Prosperity conference, Nov. 11 – 13 in Thompsonville, Michigan.

House Bill 2626, co-authored by Representative Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and co-sponsored by, among others, Representatives Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) and Vern Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids) would provide grants of up to $100,000 for schools to buy food from local farms rather than from distributors that import it from thousands of miles away.

An in-depth article about Mr. Upton’s “farm-to-cafeteria” proposal and related developments in Michigan, including the Seeds of Prosperity conference, are available at: http://mlui.org/growthmanagement/fullarticle.asp?fileid=16522.

“This program begins the process of looking toward local providers to furnish better nutrition for our kids,” Rep. Upton said of his bill.

It also points to the numerous ways Michigan communities can grow jobs and build their quality of life by developing a new generation of farm entrepreneurs, according to Patty Cantrell, the director of the Seeds of Prosperity conference.

“Michigan farmers and their communities have a new world of opportunity before them as consumers begin to demand more choices than consolidated, global markets can offer,” Ms. Cantrell said. “Our conference will show how helping farms grow their businesses in new ways can be an incredibly cost-effective way to enrich both rural and urban areas.”

The Seeds of Prosperity conference, subtitled “Food, Farms, and Michigan’s Economic Future,” will gather 200 people at Crystal Mountain Resort, where they will discuss many aspects of what is now known as “New Entrepreneurial Agriculture.” They will explore emerging food and farm markets, learn how communities and farms are working together to capitalize on these new opportunities, and take home proven strategies that provide good jobs, quality food, and green spaces.

More information about Seeds of Prosperity, and a registration form, are available at www.mlui.org/sop.

Sponsors and supporters of this landmark event include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Department of Agriculture, and Traverse City Area Chamber Foundation.

Background Information:
The Michigan Land Use Institute, the non-profit organization that is producing Seeds of Prosperity, has an extensive archive of original research and reporting on Michigan’s farm and land use issues at its award-winning Web site, www.mlui.org.

Ms. Cantrell’s comprehensive, 20-page report on the development of “New Entrepreneurial Agriculture” in Michigan can be read or downloaded at: http://mlui.org/growthmanagement/fullarticle.asp?fileid=16398

A large collection of recent articles about the business of farming in Michigan and elsewhere, many written by Ms. Cantrell, the Institute’s agriculture project manager, can be read or downloaded at: http://www.mlui.org/GrowthManagement/gm.asp?pid=3&key=1&sub=14

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