Michigan's local food movement is growing and thriving. We're seeing more chefs who deeply care about what they buy and from whom.
Chefs like James Rigato of the Root, a locavore restaurant in White Lake Township.
Writer Michael Jackman of the Metro Times recently analyzed a meal prepared by Chef Rigato and traced nearly 100% of its ingredients to Michigan producers. His just-released story in the Metro Times is billed as "a grand tour of Michigan's local food movement."
The meal consisted of a Charcuterie platter with meat, cheese, fish and vegetables from the region.
Jackman says of Rigato, "He seems to enjoy creating dishes that have a riot of flavors."
Tracing the meat included in the meal by Rigato led Jackman to C. Roy Processing in Yale, Michigan, which Jackman describes as a "throwback."As a small family business, all of the production steps take place under one roof.
C. Roy has been in Yale since 1924 and is a local staple. Jackman says every year there is a Bologna Festival, complete with a naming of the Bologna King and Queen.
Jackman also visited Indian Brook Trout Farm near Jackson, close to the Absopure bottling plant. The farm uses water from an underground aquifer to create the best conditions for the fish.
For Jackman, all of the farmers he visited had one thing in common, "There's a certain kind of fondness for the animals that these food producers work with that is somewhat endearing."
He says this affection would never be found at a commercial operation.
When visiting Sunseed Farm in Ann Arbor, Jackman says co-founder Tomm Becker asked him to consider the billion dollars’ worth of food that's purchased every year in Washtenaw County, and what the difference in the area would be if 10% of that money was to stay in the area.
Jackman says many of these local food businesses often rely not only on local shoppers, but the continued support of chefs in the area. These relationships support both businesses and can lead to collaboration, with chefs even having input on ingredients they would love to see grown in the area to use in their meals.