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      Buying from Local Farms

      Rowan Bunce grew up on a farm, now he owns his own in Alger County. Bunce says the demand for locally grown food has skyrocketed in recent years. You can see it in the number of farmers markets that have cropped up across the U.P. in recent years.

      "In the past two years and even in the past three years, it's just you see a constant incremental climb of demand," said Bunce.

      Why the increase in demand? Very simply, people want local food.

      "It's not a function of how much we could sell, it's a function of how much we could grow here on the farm," Bunce said.

      Local farmers believe the trend toward buying their food is a result of consumers being more health conscious, wanting to put their money back into the local economy and wanting to know the story behind where the food comes from. Some local farmers, like Jeff Hatfield, a Marquette County farmer, even encourage their customers to visit their farms and watch them at work.

      "We don't have anything to hide in our practices, and I think that just promotes a feeling of honesty and trust with the consumer that is hard to develop through a retailer," said Hatfield.

      But is locally grown food really better for you? I posed that question to dietician Jacque Nyenhuis.

      "You're more likely to get the freshest food available, and when they ship it to market it's going to be a lot quicker and the nutritional value should be higher in those foods then whether it's organic or inorganic if it is shipped from a distance," said Nyenhuis.

      And vendors agree. Management at the Marquette Co-op believes the added freshness of local meat and produce add vital nutrients that many foods shipped from far away lack.

      "They have to pick it before it's even ripe, so what happens is, then it is exposed to different gases, ethylene gases, and then it's ripened so right there you have cut down on some of the nutrient value," said Natasha Gill, Education and Outreach Representative, Marquette Co-op.

      According to the USDA, higher energy intake is strongly associated with higher nutrient intake. And for farmers like Bunce, an integral part of growing food is eating it himself.

      Bunce said, "I can walk through this and pick anything I need for dinner that night, and just having fresh food is so much nicer, healthier, and you know, the benefits are overwhelming."