Farm to Fork Gala brings farmers and community members together.

December 18, 2019

Farm to Fork Gala brings farmers and community members together.

#TheLand is a series telling the stories about local agriculture. It is a presentation of Peterson Farms.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — What safety protocols go into producing milk? What impact have trade tariffs had on local farmers? What career opportunities are there locally for agriculture? Why aren’t there more organic farms in Mason and Oceana counties? These were just some of the questions the audience asked a panel of local agriculturists during the third annual Mason County Farm Bureau’s Farm to Fork Gala held at West Shore Community College Tuesday evening.

The event’s purpose is to bring local farmers together with members of the community and to talk openly about topics of concern that consumers have about food production. The evening began with a meal, prepared by the West Shore Educational Service District’s Career Technical Education culinary arts students, and WSCC students using local ingredients. The main course included steak from Brown Cattle Company of Riverton Township.

“There is a lot of misleading information circulating about modern farming,” said Mason County Farm Bureau President Seth Earl. “The idea behind Food to Fork is for our community leaders to sit down with farmers and have a conversation about these topics. Our hope is that those folks will then go back and talk to their friends, families, customers, and employees about what it is that we actually do.”

Agriculture is one of the top industries in Mason County and the second largest industry in Michigan, Earl said. “Less than 2% of the United States’ population lives on a farm today,” Earl said, “yet agriculture impacts every single one of us. We have to eat and farmers grow the food.

Panelists for the evening included dairy farmer Burke Larsen, owner of Larsen Farms in Victory Township, livestock and crop farmer Brad Brown of Brown Cattle Company of Riverton Township, Lindsay Earl of the Michigan Milk Producers Association and Stakenas Farms of Free Soil, and Vince Miskosky and Luke Pfeiffer of Arbre Farms food processors of Walkerville.

Vince Miskoski, right, of Arbre Farms of Walkerville talks about food safety; Luke Pfeiffer, left, is also from Arbre Farms.

The panel members answered the audience’s questions about food safety, trade issues, immigration and careers. They discussed the extensive oversight and efforts involved in keeping food safe. They also talked about farmers’ favorite topic: the weather and how this year’s above average rainfalls has caused tragic losses on farmers. That topic also led to a conversation about mental health and suicide rates among farmers. 

“We all had a locally grown meal here tonight and you probably didn’t even think twice about whether it was safe,” Larsen said. “That’s because there is no other farmers in the world who goes through the efforts to keep your food safe like the American farmer.”

“In the 40-plus years I have been in the food industry, I have seen a major change in improving food safety,” Miskosky said.

The panel also talked about how technology has changed agriculture. One of the questions asked was if technology advancements in agriculture has meant fewer jobs. The response from the panel was “no.” In fact technology has meant more opportunities for diverse careers in agriculture.

“There are 230 different agricultural careers in Michigan,” Earl said. “There is a 24% chance that you will work in the agriculture or food industry in Michigan.”

Victory Township farmer Jake Anderson speaks with Nicole Jennings of Michigan Farm Bureau

“I benefited from the FFA and it is a great asset that we again have FFA chapters in this community.”

The event was sponsored by a grant from Michigan Farm Bureau, along with West Shore Community College and Brown Cattle Company.

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