By KATHY GIBBONS
TRAVERSE CITY —
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rujral Development awarded the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments a $200,000 Regional Food System Project grant for the Grand Traverse Regional Market.
Susan Cocciarelli, community economic development specialist with Michigan State University and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, said the money will go a long way toward furthering an effort to create a food hub at Grand Traverse Commons.
The Grand Traverse Regional Market Initiative is seeking to redevelop Building 58, the former commissary of the Northern Michigan Asylum, into a regional food hub that would create a central location for agriculture production, aggregation, value-added processing, packaging, storage and distribution.
Cocciarelli said the grant shows "a real vote of confidence by the state of Michigan that in this region, there is enough supply and enough demand that necessitates a food hub kind of aggregation."
The Cherry Marketing Institute also was awarded a $90,000 value-added grant that its president, Phil Korson, said will help the industry climb back out of the depths of disaster that 2012 represented. Unseasonably warm March weather followed by an April freeze destroyed most of the state's tart cherry crop this year.
"Our request was for a comeback strategy," Korson said, "which is to really push back as hard as we can as we get to the new crop next year "¦ and recapture the markets we have lost this year to foreign competition, as well as promote our product lines with our existing retailers we once had.
"Our goal is to get our message out, to use it as a way to recapture our footing in the marketplace."
In total, MDARD received 63 grant proposals statewide with requests totaling $7.8 million. Fourteen were funded to the tune of $1.9 million.