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Beginning in 2012, 16 local units of government in rural Northwest Michigan formed a regional collaboration to increase capacity by working together to address needs going unmet in individual communities. Although the role of agriculture as a land use and economic activity of overwhelming importance shone like a beacon, almost no data existed which would offer a comprehensive understanding of the outputs, distribution channels, unmet needs, or duplicated services associated with the 25% of the region’s land classified as “agricultural.” This lack of data made robust recommendations aimed at substantially improving the local economy impossible. 


The Farm and Food System Assessment was designed to capitalize on and fit within the existing superregional framework while remaining specific to the Lakes to Land communities. The data were sourced from, and verified by, the agricultural community: the consultant researcher “embedded” in the area and gathered data by attending farmers’ markets and farm bureau meetings, conducting on-site interviews, personally delivering and picking up surveys, and building relationships through word-of-mouth recommendation.


As a result, the final report presents a picture of agriculture in the Lakes to Land region in fine-grained and vivid detail. Comprehensive data from the Census of Agriculture are compiled and mapped. Narratives are developed through the interviews, and surveys support, explain, and expand upon the ownership and sales classifications of farming operations. Images commissioned from a local photographer highlight lush vegetation and tantalizing dishes. The report is an accessible, readable document meant to offer any interested citizen a meaningful acquaintance with the local food system.

Lakes to Land Regional Initiative: Farm and Food System Assessment
Northern Lower Michigan
2015 Innovation in Economic Planning & Development

Michigan Association of Planning

Click here to view the Farm and Food System Assessment
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