Greg Gaines and Betti Wiggins Receive 2015 Farmer and Food Systems Leader of the Year Awards
posted on February 17, 2015 12:33pm
The 12th annual Michigan Family Farms Conference on January 17, 2015, themed “Sustain our Future – Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities,” gathered more than 430 attendees from across the state to Marshall High School to network, learn and build sustainable family farms.
Each year, the Conference Planning Committee awards individuals whose hard work and dedication to sustainable practices and healthy food are making a change in today’s food system. Because there is so much good work being done and so many outstanding individuals involved, the Committee now gives out two awards each year to a farmer and food systems leader who stand above the rest.
This year, the Committee was honored to award Greg Gaines and Mr. Rogers Garden Program Team the 2014 Farmers of the Year Award. This training program, through Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, encourages academic success, teaches employment skills, work ethics, responsibility and teamwork. It been growing for more than 20 years, employing hundreds of local at-risk youth over the years, with the support of area mentors. Because of this program, students are finding jobs and opportunities to contribute to their community in positive and meaningful ways and learning skills that will help bring them success in life.
For the second year, the Committee gave an award in honor of Dr. LeRoy Ray, Jr., who founded the Farm Research Cooperative and was one of the founders of the Michigan Family Farms Conference, to recognize a leader in the local food movement. The 2015 Food System Leader of the Year award was presented to Betti Wiggins, the Executive Director of the Office of Food Services at Detroit Public Schools. Betti has made it her mission to show children a better way to eat, so that healthy eating habits become routine for them and their families, changing the paradigm of unhealthy eating that undermines the minds and bodies of our youth. She brings youth to farms to show them where their food can come from and how fresh food can be, and she is teaching them to grow it themselves through a network of more than 50 community gardens.
“The Michigan Family Farms Conference Planning Committee has always understood the power of individuals working together to help build the strength of Michigan’s farm communities and local food systems,” said Michelle Napier-Dunnings, Executive Director of Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS), who partners to coordinate the conference each year. “Greg, his mentors and his students at the Mr. Rogers Garden Program and Betti Wiggins have put their hearts and 110 percent of their time and effort into their passion, serving their communities.”
Greg and Betti both received plaques and inspired the audience with words of encouragement, expressing that everyone can, and should, make a difference in their communities and in the local food movement – it is all of our responsibilities.
Thank you to this year’s sponsors and planning partners, including Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS), the Farm Research Cooperative, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA),Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU Extension, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, the Great Lakes Food Co-op, Detroit Eastern Market, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Meijer, Mid-Michigan Consulting, LLC, Mike Pirrone Produce, the Resource Institute of Michigan, Organic Valley, Carlson-Arbogast Farm, the Cherry Marketing Institute, the Michigan Apple Committee, MassMutual, Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Nifty Hoops, the Potawatomi Resource Conservation and Development Council, and Spring House Press.
To learn more about the conference, visit www.miffs.org/events/mffc.