MIFFS Hits the Radio Waves in WKAR Interview
posted on March 28, 2014 12:22pm
Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) was the feature of a Current State Neighbors in Action segment on WKAR Public Media this week.
Michelle Napier-Dunnings, MIFFS executive director, Jen Silveri, MIFFS Council Member and Eaton County MAEAP technician, and Denae Freidheim, MIFFS member and operator of Foodshed Farm in Bath Township, joined WKAR on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 for the Neighbors in Action segment, where WKAR features people and organizations working to make our community a better place.
Michelle explained how MIFFS is working to achieve its mission of connecting beginning and historically underserved farmers to resource opportunities for developing profitable and environmentally sustainable livelihoods. MIFFS has been working since its inception in 1998 with farmers who have often been overlooked for assistance, like African-American, Latino and women farmers, as well as those with small and diversified farms. Recently, MIFFS has also been focusing on returning veterans and migrant populations as well and reaching out to those farmers who are working to carve out a niche in Michigan’s changing agricultural landscape.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in our country today is 58 years old, and 44% of Michigan farms are 50 acres or fewer, with approximately 8% being fewer than 10 acres. At the same time, the demand for local food is skyrocketing, so MIFFS is trying to help those smaller-scale farms get their products safely to consumers who are so hungry for fresh, homegrown food, in different ways. As more farms are diversifying their operations, growing more varieties of vegetables and fruit, sometimes even year-round in high tunnels, MIFFS sees tremendous opportunity for its farmers to take a bigger bite of the market share.
Denae Freidheim, who operates Foodshed Farm in Bath Township, is one of those farmers who sees the potential small farms have to shape our food system. On the show, she shared how she got started in agriculture, from her unexpected love affair with organic farming to the struggles she’s faced being taken seriously as a young woman in a field still dominated by men. She said that MIFFS has helped break down some of those barriers for farmers like herself, connecting them to educational opportunities and resources to help them grow successful, sustainable businesses.
Jen, as a Conservation District technician, works with farmers as diverse as our state’s agriculture (did you know Michigan farmers grow and raise more than 300 varieties of food/?), from farms like Denae’s to those hundreds of acres large. She explained many of the barriers new and small-scale farmers face, like access to land and regulatory barriers like the Food Safety Modernization Act which have the potential to drastically change the face of food systems across the country. This legislation will be harmful to small farms, especially those who are marketing their products together or through cooperatives or food hubs.
Still, farmers are finding innovative ways to overcome these barriers and learn from one another, like at the farm centers around the state MIFFS is working to develop. Right now, MIFFS is leading the effort for a Women in Ag incubator farm in Flint in partnership with Genesys Regional Medical Center. At this site, women farmers will share space, resources, equipment and education and will market their vegetables to the Genesee Intermediate School District and to the hospital itself. MIFFS is also working to develop a farm center specifically for veterans to help them translate their skills from the armed forces into a viable farming operation, from learning learning the basics of starting a farm to developing a business plan and finding a place in the market.
You can support these efforts by joining MIFFS with your membership or at an upcoming event, donating to the organization or simply by shopping locally at your favorite farmers’ market or roadside stand.
List to the full recorded segment now at http://wkar.org/post/neighbors-action-michigan-food-and-farming-systems.