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      Supporting local foods

      Where does your food come from? A growing number of people across Upper Michigan are interested in buying local produce.

      The U.P. Food Exchange held a food summit at Northern Michigan University on Wednesday to talk about creating a sustainable food system...a room full of people looking for insight on how to keep up with the growing demand for locally grown produce.

      The U.P Food Exchange Food Summit gives farmers an opportunity to connect with each other and find ways to get the word out about their resources.

      "In order to get more local food, we need to have more people farming and we need to have current farmers producing more on their land. So, one of the things that we are working on is capacity building," said Natasha Lantz.

      A recent study, conducted by Ken Meter, president of Crossroads Resource Center, shows around $430 million are spent by U.P. residents on outsourced food.

      Meter suggests if people purchased $5 worth of foods from a local farm per week, it could generate more than $80 million of new farm revenue.

      "Most farmers are putting their energy into farming their food for distant consumers and regions buying food from far away. So, it really doesn't add up. Turns out farmers aren't making very much money," said Meter.

      He says farmers need to find easier ways of providing access to local produce by small farms joining forces.

      "They can aggregate those up into a bigger load and ship those to an institution, like a school or a hospital, that wants to buy local food, or for grocery stores, and becoming a place where food really is easy to trade from local farms to local consumers," Meter added.

      Meter said farmers should find ways to extend the season of their crops with extra heating technologies in hoop houses.

      "Have a year-round greenhouse that will produce lettuce year-round, hopefully. That will help us kind of maintain an economic stability throughout the winter time," said Rowan Bunce, Rock River Farm.