Northern Michigan University's indoor agriculture program recently hosted a visit by representatives of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local dignitaries.
“Having [MDARD] Director Gary McDowell visit our program with his team solidified the connection we are forming with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,” said Kim Smith Kolasa, assistant professor and program coordinator. “The team acknowledged the importance of creating localized, year-round fresh food sourcing for the Upper Peninsula, and expressed their interest in learning more about and being supportive of NMU's indoor agriculture program.”
"Those visiting were able to learn more about how our program came to be and its quick and growing success, from both a student and industry partner perspective," added Evan Lucas, assistant professor. "They also learned about our vision for the future, and how we are starting to establish external partnerships which will in turn help provide more local economic development opportunities, ideally driven by indoor agriculture students and alumni."
Smith and Lucas were joined by biology faculty colleague Donna Maki in providing a program overview via a slide show and guiding the guests through the indoor agriculture lab.
Student Zachary Boyer gave a tour of a state-of-the-art shipping container growing center that he manages, called Freight Farms Greenery, which was purchased with a $100,000 Michigan Rural Development Fund grant and a 30% match from NMU (read a related story here). Student Callie Henderson shared their program experiences with the MDARD team.
"The Upper Peninsula is not only my home, but is also home to many diverse agricultural opportunities," said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. "Governor Whitmer created the newly created Office of Rural Development to recognize what our rural communities, like Marquette, bring to Michigan's economy. I believe in Michigan, especially the full potential of our rural areas, our food and agriculture businesses and in the Upper Peninsula."
In addition to McDowell, other visitors from off campus included: Donna LaCourt, economic and community development specialist with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Vicki Schwab, senior business development manager, Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Jeremy Hosking, director of the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Northern Michigan Office; and Mary Myers, director of business development, Lake Superior Community Partnership.