Once upon a time, on the rare occasion that a family went out to a restaurant to get something to eat, they could be confident that the food they would consume came from the same local farmers from which they purchased food for their own homes. Those days are long gone. Today, most people eat out more often, buy food without knowing where it came from, and are frequently served food in eateries that was purchased in bulk from across the nation or the world. That is what makes the farm-to-table movement so important, and worth celebrating.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA), and the Michigan Ag Council are now accepting applications for the 2018 Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Restaurant Award. Now in its second year, the award was created to raise awareness of the economic impact of restaurants using Michigan manufactured food products.

Last year’s winners included The Maple Grille in Hemlock, Iron Works Café in Manistee, Public House Food & Drink in Monroe, and New Holland Brewing and Artisan Spirits in Holland, Michigan.

There are good reasons why restaurants like these are placing a priority on serving locally-sourced goods. Produce that is grown close to home, is more likely to be fresh and therefore of higher quality. As an added benefit to the community, it also reduces fossil fuel emissions when it is transported across town, instead of being shipped across the world. Locally-grown and Michigan-made products also make a significant impact on our local economy. These are just some of the reasons why the desire for farm-to-table eateries is steadily increasing.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual chef survey, consumer demand for locally-grown produce has been one of the top culinary trends in recent years, and 54 percent of adults say they look for limited-service restaurants serving locally sourced food.

“We know Michigan consumers are really interested in supporting local farms and agricultural businesses,” said Elaine Bristol, Michigan Ag Council Program Coordinator. “The Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Restaurant Award is a fantastic opportunity to showcase businesses that are committed to bridging the gap some of us experience between Michigan farms and our dinnerplates. Michigan farmers offer an amazing variety of locally grown, quality foods and products for their own families and for the communities we share.”

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, ranking only behind California with its more tropical climate, for the wide variety of agricultural commodities produced here. That leads to great opportunities to eat seasonally, both at home, and in restaurants.

“There aren’t many states like ours when it comes to agricultural diversity and the appreciation our restaurants and residents have for what we grow and produce here. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a local pub, an eclectic bistro, an upscale tapas establishment, or a fast food chain—the foods we grow and produce in this state will always be the highlight of any meal,” said MDARD Director Gordon Wenk.

The Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Awards will be presented during the 2018 Michigan Restaurant Show located at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, October 16-17.

Applications and guidelines are available at http://www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants. Applications must be emailed to Rittere@michigan.gov by July 20, 2018.

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.