By Laura Kaminski ’08 (with Karl Buck, Deirdra Stockmann and Ann Vail)
Abstract: In 2004, a local food system report, entitled Toward a Sustainable Food System: Assessment and Action Plan for Localization in Washtenaw County, Michigan, was released at the conclusion of a master’s project conducted by a team of students at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. This research and report made a compelling argument for the viability of a local food system in Washtenaw County, Michigan, and was the first of its kind to assess the intricacies of the existing local food system within a single county of southeastern Michigan (Davis et al. 2004). Building upon this previous research, in early 2006 a second research team comprised of master’s students from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment joined with members of the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) to develop resources and tools to identify unmet local consumer demands and opportunities for agricultural economic development in a fivecounty area of southeastern Michigan (i.e., Jackson, Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw and Wayne counties). FSEP, an urban-rural collaboration working to enable strong farms, healthy cities, community wealth, and job creation in southeastern Michigan, was officially launched in the beginning of 2005 to identify economic opportunities and implement creative solutions to chronic issues relevant to the food system in the region. As a new organization, FSEP required additional knowledge and data about the local food system, particularly from system participants, to develop the resources and tools needed to carry out their mission to catalyze change in the food system of southeastern Michigan through research, education and outreach.