It’s sometimes hard to determine whether we’re witnessing a profound national trend or just strictly a local phenomenon.
I’m speaking of the push we’re seeing here in the Upper Peninsula to “grow local” and to “buy local”. Two events last weekend spotlighted the movement: the first, held at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, brought together local merchants from mostly small and independent stores to celebrate and promote the “Up with Local” campaign.
Is the campaign working? Well, from the manager of the Marquette Food Co-op, I learned that business was up about 17% this year. That’s in a depressed economy! And further, the Co-op now has almost 3000 members. Some of them come from Alger County and maybe a handful from other counties, but still, when you consider that Marquette County has about 65,000 people, 3000 is a considerable amount for what was once considered to be a marginal business catering mostly to “tree-huggers.”
Not anymore. Not by a long shot. Consumers increasinglywant local and healthy food grown by local farmers and producers. It has nothing to do with politics.
Further evidence–the increasing popularity of farmers’ markets, across the U.P. and across the nation. Have you ever been to one? They’re fun, the food is fresh, and when you buy it, you’re helping your neighbors.
Also last weekend, independent Marquette restaurateurs got together at the Marquette Commons to show off their food and raise a little money. In spite of the cool, blustery weather, people turned out (at $25 a ticket), and helped raise a $1000 for the Children’s Museum, $1000 for the History Museum, $1000 for the YMCA, and $1300 for the restaurant association.
On Sunday, I travelled up to the Keweenaw for the fall colors but I specifically wanted to visit a new restaurant in Lake Linden–De La Terre.
It’s a classy re-make and expansion of an old restaurant there. Great food, wonderful atmosphere, and a welcome addition to the food scene in the Calumet-Laurium-Lake Linden area. But what was especially impressive was that virtually all of the produce and the meat come from the local area, and the materials used in renovating the restaurant were all local, as well. Some came from long defunct mines.
UP With Local is for real. It’s certainly a national trend, but I get the sense that the Upper Peninsula, which is already set apart by geography, is ahead of the curve. There’s an immense local pride here, and clearly many of our neighbors are doing more than just talking about it.