Localizing the Mackinac Island Foodshed

Client Organization: 
Mackinac Food Forest
Project Location : 
Mackinac Island, MI, USA
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives:

The overall goal of the projects is to make measured progress towards our 4 year goal of achieving 25% local
food on Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Food Forest currently has 4 distinct, yet interrelated components which are perfect for student

1. Local Food Policy & Community Building

  • Formalize the Mackinac Island Local Food Council: Establish and document the initial governance and structure of the council.
  • Define initial target policy improvements.
  • Increase council membership through creative marketing and outreach.

2. Mackinac Island Public School’s Farm to School program

  • Continue the planning phase of the Mackinac Island Public School’s Farm to School program.
  • Work with the Procurement Specialist and F2S Lead Consultant to choose foods that can be sourced locally and economically.
  • Develop garden-based curriculum and plans for a small on-site school garden.

3. Farmer Collaborative

  • Continue dialogue and plan training workshops with local area farmers seeking to form a collaborative entity.
  • Complete financing and begin implementation of In-Ground Greenhouse project plans.

4. Local Food and Farm Economy Research Project

  • Conduct the research project in partnership with Crossroads Resource Center.
  • Refine survey and interview questions.
  • Develop additional impact indicators.
  • Produce attractive reports of research results.

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, & Significance: 

The proposed activities will drastically improve the necessary conditions for a strong local food system on Mackinac Island and the surrounding region.

This will serve to increase food security, improve community durability and resilience, strengthen the local economy, educate on proper nutrition behaviors, inform local and regional policymakers, reduce food and
energy waste, repair soil and natural habitat, and quantify improvement. Further, it will consolidate, inform and engage the effectiveness of community efforts thereto, as well as fortify a just environment of fair and
sustainable practices.

More practically, it will induce an economic climate where local restaurants and food entrepreneurs are highly motivated to procure and serve local food. All of this will help to build vibrant relationships amongst
community members and visitors alike, while increasing the accountability of the Mackinac Island brand to local and environmental concerns.

Specific Activities & Duration
The activities timeline specifies the shared task schedule for the student collaborators, the team members internal to the organization, and external partner organizations and agencies. Collaborators will work across
project component areas to utilize skill sets. The activities timeline is coordinated and arranged by the Project Director using Agile project management techniques.

Local Food Policy & Community Building

1. Jan - April,2018: Initial Planning & Design (on-campus)

  • Collect and analyze publicly available governance documentation from existing local food councils.
  • Create initial recommendations for purpose messaging, meeting schedule, meeting procedures, voting, leadership, membership, and other management suggestions.
  • Analyze local food and land-use aspects of city and regional policies, ordinances, and master plan.
  • Research and develop meeting agenda schedule recommendations.  

2. May - September, 2018 : Implementation (on-site)

  • Initial meeting to discuss council plan and governance recommendations, and set meeting schedule.
  • Ratify bylaws and other recommended governance documentation.
  • Elect initial leadership.
  • Set meeting agenda and milestone schedule.

3. October 2018 - April, 2019 : Finalization (on-campus)

  • Develop long-term plan, goals and milestone recommendations.
  • Produce implementation report detailing methods and outcomes.

4. Ongoing (Optional)

  • Attend future council events and meetings.
  • Plan future community outreach events.
  • Train and present council governance techniques and strategies to neighboring councils.

Farm to School Program

1. Jan - April,2018 : Initial Planning & Design (on-campus)

  • Produce garden specifications.
  • Plan F2S product procurement.
  • Design garden-based curriculum.
  • Plan farm field-trips

2. May - September, 2018 : Implementation (on-site)

  • In-person meetings with F2S planning team to discuss project plans and recommendations.
  • Install garden.
  • Rollout garden-based curriculum.
  • Coordinate farm field-trips.
  • Procure initial farm products for school meal program.

3. October 2018 - April, 2019 : Finalization (on-campus)

  • Develop garden maintenance plan and schedule.
  • Produce F2S implementation report.
  • Attend the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.

4. Ongoing (Optional)

  • Future curriculum consultation.
  • Hoophouse planning and design.
  • Garden site visits in Spring / Summer of 2018

Local Food and Farm Economy Research Project

1. Jan - April,2018 : Initial Planning & Design (on-campus)

  • Remote meetings with Crossroads Resource Center.
  • 3 county census data collection and analysis.
  • Develop survey and interview questions.
  • Compile additional impact indicator recommendations.

2. May - September, 2018 : Implementation (on-site)

  • 3 county census data collection and analysis (continued).
  • Determine additional impact indicators.
  • Administer surveys and interviews.

3. October 2018 - April, 2019 : Finalization (on-campus)

  • Produce research results report and visualizations.
  • Present report to stakeholders including council, farm to school planning team, and farm collaborative.

4. Ongoing (Optional)

  • Future research presentation opportunities at council meetings and conferences.

Farm Collaborative

1. Jan - April, 2018 : Initial Planning & Design (on-campus)

  • Research collaborative structures and governance.
  • Remote consultations with Stewards of the Land Collaborative, Midwest Permaculture and Local Food Shift leadership and members.
  • Program recommended meeting structure.

2. May - September, 2018 : Implementation (on-site)

  • Host and facilitate collaborative discussion sessions.
  • Host workshops with Stewards of the Land Collaborative, Midwest Permaculture, and Local Food Shift.
  • Assist with in-ground greenhouse construction, environmental controls installation, and planting.

3. October 2018 - April, 2019 : Finalization (on-campus)

  • Produce retrospective report.
  • Develop long-term goals and milestone recommendations.

4. Ongoing (Optional)

  • Future council and farmer collaborative event and meeting attendance coordination.
  • Future planning of additional greenhouse implementation sites.
  • Greenhouse site visits in Spring / Summer of 2018

Integrative Approach:

The project will promote collaboration during the design process between team members by utilizing an iterative, interactive, and self-managing approach. Team members will consolidate each individual’s planning
contributions into a unified set of timeline activities affecting a single manageable-sized local food system. Overlap between the planning and design phase will provide timing flexibility for this interactive process.
Team members will participate in remote and in-person planning and design meetings with partners internal to the organization, and use shared documentation to effectively integrate the design of functionally distinct
system components.

When planning and documentation phases are complete, a community meeting will be hosted to assemble a community workforce and communicate the activity timeline. This community workforce will provide
assistance to student collaborators, Project Director, and other organizational team members during the implementation phase.

The timeline will be divided into the following collaborative work stages:

Initial Planning: Jan - March, 2018

  • Individual remote meetings to acquaint and familiarize. Remote group meeting to assign tasks, roles and timelines amongst student collaborators and organization workforce. Initial research and data collection.
  • Individual remote meetings as needed.

Design: Feb - March, 2018

  • Produce individual documentation and recommendations: governance research and recommendations, data collection, develop survey and interview questions, garden specifications, F2S product procurement planning, curriculum design, greenhouse blueprints, event programming, and workshop presentations.
  • Frequent short meetings to touch base on dependencies or blockers amongst team members. Host weekly remote design meetings to produce integrated project timeline from individual contributions.

Implementation: May - September, 2018

  • Community meetings to assemble and present implementation goals and activities, and to align the larger team on process and guidelines. Governance ratification, farm product procurement, garden

installation, garden-based curriculum rollout, greenhouse constructuction, and planting.

Finalization: October 2018 - April, 2019

  • Finalize documentation and produce final reports detailing methods and intentions, and offering thoughts for future maintenance and improvement. Integrate individual reports into a unified project summary. Make reports and supporting documentation publicly available on organization’s website.
  • Communicate recommendations to local decision and policymakers.

Ongoing (optional)

  • Community Education and Enhancement: participants will be invited back to observe project results, train neighboring communities, meeting and conference presentations. Production: Plant and building maintenance, food processing and distribution. Observation: Results of environmental controls will be used as feedback to future growing cycles.
SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Informatics
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
Role for each program area: 

Conservation Ecology: Although not required for any particular project, the proximity of Mackinac Island to state and national parklands, as well as Lake Huron compel project participants to take an approach sensitive to protected areas, wildlands, and aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, all projects will benefit from baseline familiarity with one or more of the following: environmental stewardship, ecological risk assessment, watershed sensitivities and agroecology.

Environmental Policy and Planning: Participants in the Local Food Council policy project will require familiarity with policy and ordinance analysis, critical decision making, urban and rural planning, and negotiation strategy. Preferred expertise includes sustainable ecosystem management, biodiversity, and public lands management.

Behavior, Education, and Communication: Mackinac Island Public School’s Farm to School program and the Local Food Policy & Community Building project both require outreach communication and sensitivity to public opinion. Preferred expertise includes environmental education, community engagement, localization, transitional thinking, and behavioral theory.

Environmental Informatics: Participants in The Local Food and Farm Economy Research Project will collect and analyze data from the U.S. census as well as administer surveys and conduct interviews with community members. Required expertise includes strong familiarity with one, or preferably more, of the following: research methods including data collection, data analysis, and impact measurement, as well as informational technology including GIS, data visualization, and spatial analysis.

Environmental Justice: All of the projects would benefit from knowledge of food security, food justice, equal food access and social movement dynamics. In addition, the Local Food Policy project will require a team member with familiarity in food and land use law, sociology, and political science.

Sustainable Systems: All of the projects are deeply interdisciplinary and highly collaborative, benefiting greatly from skills in group mediation, co-learning, and social values. In addition, all projects will gain value from team members experienced with sustainable food systems, systems analysis, and life cycle analysis.

Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Project participants will be exposed to numerous professional development opportunities through collaborative research and formal training sessions with specialists from our partner organizations including Crossroads
Research Center, Stewards of the Land Farmer Cooperative, Midwest Permaculture, and Local Food Shift. In addition, there will be opportunities to work with partner governmental institutions including the City of
Mackinac Island, the State of Michigan DNR & MDARD, Mackinac State Historic Parks, USDA FNS & NIFA, and Hiawatha National Forest. These relationships will enable distinguishing expansion of professional

These partnerships will also provide potential to greatly increase expertise in myriad areas relevant to careers in sustainability and the environment: sustainable systems concepts such as systems thinking, design frameworks,
and appropriate technology; justice issues such as food security and equal access; engagement techniques including creative outreach and event promotion; policy topics including governance, strategy, analysis, and
negotiation; and collaborative skills such as co-learning, coordination, and mediation.

Students will also have ongoing opportunity to present research findings and represent the group at conferences
and meetings including Michigan Local Food Council Network meetings, various partner university and state extension conferences, and the National Farm to School Conference.

Funding Sources: 

Potential funding:

  • We have submitted an application for the USDA Farm to School Planning Grant in the amount of $50,000.
  • We have submitted an application for the Echoing Green Fellowship Grant in the amount of $80,000.
  • We are currently preparing a USDA CFPCGP grant application in the amount of $400,000.
  • We are currently preparing a Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant application in the amount of $500,000.
  • We are currently preparing a USDA BFRDP grant application in the amount of $600,000.

Confirmed funding:

  • We have secured in-kind service donation from Farm to School planning and training specialists in the amount of $35,000.
  • We have secured a grant in the amount of $30,000 from Great Turtle Kayak Tours.
  • We have secured a grant in the amount of $10,000 from Dr. Tobias Kaemmerer, PSYD
  • We have secured an unidentified amount of funds from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, contingent on results of potential grant applications, and awarded during their upcoming grant cycle.
Identify expected products/deliverables: 


Local Food Policy & Community Building

1. Conduct local food council governance research and draft Mackinac Island Local Food Council bylaws.

2. Draft policy and ordinance recommendations for the City of Mackinac Island.

3. Design promotional media to recruit council members.

4. Program community outreach events to involve and educate the community.

5. Coordinate an initial volunteer program.

Farm to School Program

1. Participate in Farm to School planning sessions.

2. Deliver landscape designs for on-site garden.

3. Develop initial garden-based curriculum.

Local Food and Farm Economy Research Project

1. Design interview and survey questions for qualitative and quantitative community data collection.

2. Collect and analyze baseline data for Mackinac Island food consumption, and food production within
100 miles.

3. Recommend additional target impact indicators and monitoring procedures.

4. Prepare reports detailing economic research results and highlighting impact indicators.

Farm Collaborative

1. Coordinate, mediate and record meetings and workshops with local farmers.

2. Research funding sources for in-ground greenhouse project plan implementation.

3. Draft proposal and budget for use with greenhouse funding applications.

4. Assist farmers collaborative with constructing in-ground greenhouse and installing environmental
control systems.


1. Bylaws will govern the council interactions including voting, membership, leadership, meeting
schedule, and dispute resolution.

2. Policy recommendations will be used to advocate updates to city master plan and ordinances.

3. Promotional material will be used to recruit new council members.

4. Community outreach events will be used to further engage the community.

5. The volunteer program will provide ongoing in-kind work donation.

6. Participation in Farm to School planning sessions will bring fresh ideas to the program design process.

7. Research of funding sources and draft applications will lead to much needed current and future funding
for greenhouses and hoophouses required for season extension capabilities.

8. Assisting the farmers collaborative with construction of greenhouse and installation of environmental
controls will reduce significant construction and labor costs.

9. Coordination, mediation, and recording of farmer collaborative sessions will provide structure,
organization, and vision making for these critical assemblies.

10. skills training

11. Interview and survey questions will be used to collect accurate data from the community to avoid
relying on outdated census data.

12. Baseline data will be used to establish current food consumption volumes of Mackinac Island and food
production capacity of the surrounding area.

13. Additional target indicators will provide added dimension to data analysis and measurement methods.

14. Reports detailing research results will provide evidence of improvement, substantiating the value of all

The documents and recommendations prepared by the students will be displayed publicly on organization websites, as well as shared with partner organizations and agencies responsible for decision and policy making
at the city and regional levels. The reports and methods produced will be used to replicate programs to neighboring municipalities. The practice and behavioral changes produced by these projects will have high visibility amongst both the community members as well as the numerous visitors to the island.

Contact full name: 
Paul Spata
Job title: 
Project Director
Mackinac Island
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Raymond De Young
Contact Phone: 
Contact information: 
SNRE alum
Staff member of a potential client organization
Master Students Involved in Project: 

Mackinac Island possesses a myriad of unique food challenges and opportunities, positioning it as an auspicious place to rapidly trial solutions to modern food system issues, and replicate the successes to a wider audience.
Each year, mostly during the summer, around 1 million tourists visit the island. It is the site of the nation’s first state park and one of very few places with a ban on automobiles. With 1 square mile governed by the city, and a
contiguous 3 square miles preserved state park, the density of restaurants and the volume of food served is extraordinary. All of this food is transported to the island by ferry boat and plane, with the majority being delivered over large distances by national distributors. The time, volume and transportation challenges are significant, making the local economy extremely sensitive to these institutionalized factors. With around 500 year-round residents, and an exceptional entrepreneurial contingent, it is a tightly knit community that understands the value of working together to solve mutual problems.

In the past few years, members of the community have been rallying to localize the food system, introducing notable improvements and significant potentials for further impact. It is the goal of this project to advance and consolidate these successes into replicable patterns that continue to bolster the Mackinac Island brand as locally and environmentally responsible, as well as fairly share the benefits with the many visitors and area residents.

Project Status: 
In Progress