Appetite growing for Michigan ag-based products

Ryan Gajewski

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

PMBC Agriculture Summit brings together buyers and sellers; state well-positioned to become major supplier in fast-growing international food-subscription service

College students need to be fed.

The grazing begins sometime between going to class, studying, and meeting friends at the latest extracurricular event on campus. Around Michigan, college cafeterias are places where the quality of food is a Pure Michigan culinary experience.

At the University of Michigan, for instance, the quality of what’s on the menu can be traced to locally sourced food. But beyond promoting the health and economic sense of supporting locally sourced foods, suppliers and buyers must have an efficient and cost-effective supply chain to bring the best agricultural products to the market. 

The state of Michigan has responded to the need.

In mid-March, the annual Pure Michigan Business Connect Agriculture Summit has been providing an innovative way to foster partnerships between suppliers and buyers throughout the state’s $101.2 billion agriculture and food-processing industry. From a practical standpoint, the summit plays a key part in keeping agriculture-based businesses in the state while encouraging Michigan businesses to work together, a case of familiarity breeding appreciation.

This year, the summit was held March 14 in Novi. The matchmaking gathering was attended by hundreds of buyers and suppliers, including Meijer, Gordon Food Service, Kroger, and Beaumont Hospital. The basic idea of the summit is to get decision makers in one place to talk to each other. 

And, when business people talk at the PMBC Agriculture Summit, well, deals happen. In fact, more than $1.5 million in small business contracts can be directly attributed to the summit from the past two years.

Since 2011, PMBC summits have brought together purchasers and suppliers in 25 distinct industries, including agriculture, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and energy. Overall, the matchmaking gatherings have facilitated $5.73 billion in revenue for Michigan companies, while creating or retaining 27,941 jobs.

In the past decade, Michigan’s food processing and agriculture industry has turned into an organic juggernaut.

For those familiar with the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan being No. 1 in tart cherry production shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but what about blueberries? Michigan is the leader in blueberry production with more than three million metric tons grown annually.

And, you ask what about cucumbers? Michigan leads.

Squash? Michigan. Twenty different crops are grown nowhere more than the Great Lakes state.

Many local Michigan eateries are also benefiting from the great diversity and quality of Michigan agricultural products. Sourcing food from nearby producers, according to Michigan State University researchers, keeps down costs because there are less expenses added to the supply chain, including material and distribution outlays. In addition, researchers contend sourcing food benefits the local economy because it keeps money flowing in the community

Overall, agricultural diversity and an efficient, cost-effective supply chain that minimizes distribution costs for suppliers/growers is among the compelling reasons Michigan is well-positioned in the emerging food-subscription industry, said PMBC Director Ryan Michael.

“Michigan has all the elements to become a major player in the food-subscription business,” he said. “Many businesses already are thriving offering Michigan-made products, but there are many more opportunities on the horizon, and we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to support Michigan agriculture and food-processing businesses.”

MittenCrate, a Michigan-made food of the month service, features locally made artisan foods per edition. The company gives back to the community by donating three meals to Gleaners Food Bank for every crate produced.

Their appeal is simple: “Eat. Love. Michigan.”

The appetite is growing.

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