Blog Archive

Monday, August 17, 2015

MI Farm to School News

Hello Farm to School Network -

Apologies this is coming to you Monday instead of on a Friday – I was on a tour of Michigan Pepper Farms with Cultivate Michigan all day Friday out at the base of the thumb!  It was quite the day. First we met at George VanHoutte’s farm, where he highlighted his pepper production of eight different pepper varieties, specialty crop rotations, and talked to us a bit about his Farm to Factory Program – delivering bags of produce to workplaces near Romeo, MI.  We stopped at the Mulefoot Gastropub for lunch, where I had some of the best kielbasa and pierogis of my life.  After lunch we went to Mike Pirrone Produce in Capac where we saw his 50+ acres of pepper production and his packaging facility that packs anywhere from 1500 to 4500 bushels of peppers a day, not to mention the squash, cucumbers, and other produce they do along side. He also highlighted the potential for growth in institutional markets, largely due to their acceptance of imperfect produce (curvy cucumbers, lopsided peppers, etc) that can’t be sold to grocers.  

It was interesting to see the two different scales of production, especially for this Bostonian who is used to much smaller production. My fun fact of the day: second only to bell peppers, Michigan produces huge quantities of Hungarian Hot peppers, the majority of which go into processing!

And don’t forget to check out Cultivate Michigan’s pepper resources, as well as all the resources for their other featured foods!  And check out the attached picture to see some of Mike Pirrone’s pepper fields – so many peppers!

Hoophouses for Health in local media
Hoophouses for Health got some media attention this week!  Check out Hoophouses for Health’s Tyler Vuillemot giving a brief introduction to the program on Brownfield.  Remember, Hoophouses for Health farmers are now able to work with schools - “paying” off their hoophouse loan through the provision of food to local schools.  Check out more about this partnership between the Center for Regional Food Systems and Michigan Farmers Market Association here, and please contact me if you’re interested in seeing if there’s a Hoophouse for Health farmer near you!

USDA Updates: Farm to Preschool:
Farm to School Helps Healthy Habits Take Root EarlyUSDA spotlights Farm to Preschool programs across the country

- NPR highlights the benefits of school gardens in DC

- An elementary school in Illinois is becoming a food hub.  This has been my favorite idea ever since I came across an article last summer of a Colorado school contemplating becoming a food hub for other schools.  So excited to see project like this coming to fruition!


- a guide for finding funding, technical assistance, and developing a farm to early childhood program

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Farm to School Month Midwest Menu Webinar
- If you missed this webinar last week, it’s already been archived!  Use it as a resource in developing your Midwest Menu for Food Day in October!

- Grant applications are due on October 2 for $500 in gardening supplies to start up their school garden

Stay cool this week, Michiganders!  And as always, want to highlight innovative programming happening in your area?  Send me an email and tell me about it!


Abby Harper
Farm to School Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems | Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd | Rm 309 Natural Resources Building East Lansing, MI 48824
(p) 517.432.4525 (c) 857.600.6921

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