Demographics Business Relocation

Lakes to Land Initiative Project Focuses on Food System Prosperity



MANISTEE AND BENZIE COUNTIES – Prosperity for agricultural growers and producers, food processors and others who market or use locally grown foods is the goal of the Farm and Food System project, one of the first implementation efforts of the Lakes to Land Regional Initiative (L2L).

“We’re kicking this off by doing a food assessment to identify opportunities and challenges that are important for making this regional food system more prosperous,” said Cassi Meitl, an intern working on the project from the Michigan State University School of Planning, Design, and Construction. “In addition to one-on-one meetings, we’re asking those involved in food production, processing, and distribution in the local food system to complete a survey that is available online at”

L2L began as a grass-roots, community-driven initiative involving 18 governmental units in updating master plans and forming a regional strategy for the area that encompasses about half of both Manistee and Benzie Counties.

Phase 1 of the Farm and Food System project, funded by the Michigan Dept. of Treasury’s Competitive Grant Assistance program includes:

  • An inventory of agriculture and food related assets; including growers and producers, food processors, food service programs, restaurants, farm markets and others
  • An identification of challenges and barriers related to the prosperity of the local food system
  • An implementation strategy to address issues and opportunities
  • Identification of initial implementation projects
  • Identification of the structure and funding for the Initiative

Betsy Evans, a resident of Joyfield Township in Benzie County, is coordinating the project with the assistance of Beckett & Raeder.

“This Initiative is just what we need to get at some of the root challenges and opportunities facing our agricultural and food service economies,” said Jodi Gruner, Economic Development Analyst at Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and member of the Leadership Team for the project.  “It is focused on real needs and issues and everyone has a voice, from large to specialty farms to large and small food services specializing in locally grown foods. Our Department wants to do all that we can to steer our programs and services to respond to the priorities of this great regional initiative.”