Farm to Fork uses dining experience to highlight Michigan’s strong agricultural ties

Most people have heard the phrase “Farm to Table,” a term used by the restaurant industry to describe food that is purchased locally and then freshly prepared for restaurant patrons. It reflects the larger trend of consumers wanting to support local farmers, food producers and artisans.
 
“There’s a big push for eating locally,” said Jeremy Brown, Oakland County Market manager. “People like to know where their food is coming from.”
 
This movement inspired the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair Association (GLAF) to create Farm to Fork, an event that will highlight Michigan’s agricultural industry. Scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Oakland County Market, 2350 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford, Farm to Fork will provide a “taste” from local Michigan farmers, partnered with local restaurants. The evening will be topped off with selected Michigan wines. There will be an opportunity to purchase agricultural products from local Michigan farmers as well.
 
Funds raised from the event will go toward GLAF’s Gold Ribbon Scholarship Fund. Thanks to donations from private and corporate sponsors as well as events like Farm to Fork, the not-for-profit organization has been able to create this endowed scholarship fund for students whose future plans involve a career in agriculture.
 
GLAF teamed up with Oakland County Parks and Recreation, which operates the Oakland County Market, for the event. Market vendors have generously donated their time and fresh products, including meat, produce and other items, to the restaurants taking part.
 
Café Muse in Royal Oak is one of the participating restaurants. Owner David Smith said his staff is excited about working with some of the local farmers at the Oakland County Market, adding that it will give them an opportunity to expand their list of farms they currently use at the restaurant and that it’s important that restaurants and local farmers build relationships that will, in the end, be beneficial for the consumer.

“Café Muse is honored to be part of the first Farm to Fork event at the Oakland County Market. We were one of the first restaurants in Royal Oak to offer a menu that was built on as many locally produced ingredients as possible.  We believe that using local farmers is important not only for our economy but to provide our customers with the freshest products available. It is the heart of what our restaurant was built on,” he said. “Hopefully this event will help to open the minds and appetites of the attendees to the possibilities of what our local farmers and restaurants can create as a team.”
 
Holly Hotel owner George Kutlenios is also looking forward to the Farm to Fork event. He said the restaurant has been utilizing local produce for a number of years, so it was a natural fit. Plus, he is pleased to continue to spread the word about the benefits of eating locally.
 
“There’s nothing better than local produce,” he said.
 
In addition to the scholarships, one of GLAF’s goals is to educate consumers about the variety and availability of local produce and Michigan-made food products. According to GLAF Executive Director Steve Thelen, agriculture is the #2 industry in the state, pumping billions of dollars a year into the state economy.
 
The Oakland County Market supports that goal and has boosted its educational offerings at the market by partnering with local organizations to showcase programs, demonstrations and activities for children.
 
“I would encourage people to attend Farm to Fork because it supports a good cause – the scholarship fund – and it helps those planning to go into agricultural careers. It also supports local agriculture efforts,” said Brown.

Farm to Fork tickets are $45 each and are available online at www.miglaf.org or by calling (248) 421-7198.   For more information about Farm to Fork, the GLAF Association or the Gold Ribbon scholarship program, visit www.miglaf.org.
 
The Great Lakes Agriculture Fair Association was organized as a Michigan not-for-profit corporation in February of 2011. The organization is committed to excellence in providing opportunities for the development and promotion of agriculture, education, industry and family entertainment. This scholarship program reflects its mission to provide an educational experience for urban, near urban and rural people, especially youth, through programs and exhibitions designed to include local and regional participation, demonstrations and competition.