Stories indexed with the term ‘local food’

Selma Cafe Takes a Hiatus

Selma Cafe, the Ann Arbor breakfast fundraiser that has supported local farming efforts since 2009, is taking an indefinite hiatus, according to co-founder and operations manager Lisa Gottlieb. The monthly gathering had previously announced that it would close just for the summer – the last breakfast was in May.

But on Aug. 18, Gottlieb posted this message on the Selma Cafe website: ”Dear friends and supporters of Selma Cafe, As we move towards September, the board of directors of Selma Cafe, and I, are discussing what is next for Selma Cafe. The monthly breakfast parties are currently on hold. Please stay tuned for updates on activities, and thanks to all for the love!”

Selma Cafe began as a weekly breakfast salon in 2009, held … [Full Story]

Grants Approved for Act 88 Tax Revenues

At its Aug. 6, 2014 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners made allocations to six projects, using funds from an Act 88 millage that the county levies each year. In a separate vote, commissioners took an initial step to levy that tax, with final approval expected in September.

The county’s position is that Act 88 can be levied without voter approval to fund economic development and agricultural activities. This year, the proposal is to levy 0.07 mills in December 2014 – the same rate that was levied in 2013. It’s expected to raise an estimated $1,022,276 in property tax revenues.

In previous years, the resolution setting this millage has outlined how the revenues would be allocated. The largest allocations have gone to … [Full Story]

Second & Liberty

Industrial-sized dumpster in front of the former gas station. Looks like the building may be preparing for major renovation/demolition? Something is afoot! [According to Anna Ercoli Schnitzer in a previous S.W. item, the future of the building is as a store to sell local vegetables.]

In the Archives: When The Press Fed Us

We Ypsilantians are losing our last nominally-local newspaper.

Screenshot of March 26, 2014 note to readers announcing the changes at Heritage. Image links to the article.

Screenshot of March 26, 2014 note to readers from publisher Jim O’Rourke announcing the changes at Heritage. Image links to the article.

As of April 10, the Ypsilanti Courier, which currently maintains its office in Saline, will be amalgamated with the Chelsea Standard, Dexter Leader, Manchester Enterprise, Milan News-Leader, and Saline Reporter to form a media entity called Washtenaw Now. The weekly Ypsilanti Courier usually runs around 24 pages, according to its advertising department. Though it will combine six similar local newspapers, the weekly Washtenaw Now likely won’t contain 144 pages; by comparison, 120 pages made up last Sunday’s New York Times.

Compared to 20th-century Ypsilanti newspapers, our community coverage will inevitably be reduced – to a level that could fairly be regarded as a homeopathic dilution. The University of Michigan used to have a homeopathic college. It closed. Aside from a possible placebo effect, homeopathy doesn’t work.

But in the early 1930s, the full-strength Ypsilanti Daily Press provided a powerful remedy to ailing residents. It galvanized Ypsilantians to join a massive two-pronged community project that united clubwomen, farmers, the destitute, church ladies, storekeepers, city officials, and myriad other community members.

Because of the paper’s intervention and leadership, hungry Ypsilanti children ate nutritious food the following winter. [Full Story]

Washtenaw County to Accept Kresge Grant

Building on previous funding from the Kresge Foundation, Washtenaw County commissioners gave initial approval on Feb. 19, 2014 to apply for accept a two-year $226,357 ”Prescription for Health” grant from the nonprofit. It will fund a part-time staff position and requires a $54,250 match from the county’s public health department. A final vote is expected at the county board’s March 5 meeting.

The county’s previous funding for this program was a two-year, $361,519 Kresge grant from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 13, 2012. According to the program’s website, the purpose is ”to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among patients with low income, and to build capacity of clinics to expand the traditional medical model to include the food system.” The program also aims … [Full Story]

S. Fourth btw William & Packard

The “Parking Lot Pretzels” crew at Bethlehem United reports that they’ve made a record number of pretzels today – about 2,400. As of noon, they still had dozens more to bake. [photo] The aroma wafts up from the church basement into the parking lot. Next “bake day” is Dec. 20.

In It For The Money: Whole Hog

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

You might choose to disintermediate your meat consumption for a variety of reasons.

Maybe you’re a local organic kinda gal. Maybe you want a niche product (e.g., heritage pork, halal goat, bilingual llama) but can’t swing the upmarket prices at Whole Foods and their ilk. Maybe you want to keep the government out of your meat purchasing decisions.

Maybe you thrill to the challenge of using the whole hog, one piece at a time. Maybe you want to eat meat as ethically as possible, personally verifying that the animals are treated kindly in life and compassionately in death. [1]

Whatever your motivation, as Michiganders, you are perfectly situated to enjoy the most deliciously ethical domestically raised meat available in this modern world.

Who do you have to thank for this boon? Lazy deer-hunters, fickle farmers, conspiracy theorists, gun “nuts” – the usual folks. [Full Story]

A2: HomeGrown Festival

WEMU’s Issues of the Environment features an interview with Jason Frenzel, co-chair of the planning committee for the 6th annual Homegrown Festival. The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 6-10 p.m. at the Ann Arbor farmers market. [Source]

County Accepts Grant for Food Policy Work

Washtenaw County commissioners have voted to accept a $20,000 capacity-building grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation for work on the Washtenaw food policy council. The action took place at the Aug. 7, 2013 meeting of the county board of commissioners.

The grant will pay for training of food council members, a “foodshed mapping” project, and development of an educational and public outreach effort. The grant will be administered by a staff member of the county’s public health department, who has a seat on the council. The department will provide a $15,571 in-kind match for the grant.

The food policy council was created by the county board on March 21, 2012. Most of its members – including Rabhi – … [Full Story]

Selma Cafe Secures Nonprofit Status

Selma Cafe has received a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS, a final step needed to secure financial autonomy for the Ann Arbor breakfast fundraiser that supports local farming efforts.

Sunward Cohousing, Selma Cafe, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Selma Cafe now holds its monthly breakfast fundraisers in the common house dining room at Sunward Cohousing in Scio Township. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Gottlieb.)

According to co-founder Lisa Gottlieb, the IRS approval of Selma’s 501(c)3 application came late last week. Artrain, an Ann Arbor nonprofit that took on fiscal sponsorship of the cafe in early June, will transfer about $43,000 in cash assets back to a Selma Cafe account … [Full Story]

A2: Restaurants

Writing on The Celebrity Cafe, Francis Vachon reviews restaurants in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Hamtramck after a recent trip to Michigan. Ann Arbor eateries included in the report are Seva, the Blue Nile, Amadeus, Frita Batidos, Mark’s Carts, Café Zola and Zingerman’s Deli. Vachon writes: “Walking downtown, I did not see any ‘big chain’ fast food restaurants and only one Starbucks. This is usually a good thing when you are a foodie.” [Source]

Selma Cafe Finds New Fiscal Sponsor: Artrain

Selma Cafe, the breakfast fundraiser that suspended operations in mid-April, has found a new fiscal sponsor and is close to securing a new location, according to co-founder Lisa Gottlieb. She hopes to restart the cafe in late June, likely as a monthly Saturday brunch.

The paperwork is being completed to transfer fiscal sponsorship from the nonprofit Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) to Artrain, an arts and cultural organization. In a phone interview with The Chronicle, Gottlieb said the new sponsorship by Artrain means that FSEP will release the Selma Cafe funds that had been frozen, including $46,500 from cash donations.

In late March, FSEP had frozen funds it held on behalf of Selma Cafe and had set a May … [Full Story]

City Notifies Selma Cafe of Zoning Violation

The city of Ann Arbor has sent a notice of zoning violation to the popular Selma Cafe, a weekly home-based breakfast gathering that raises money for local farmers and farming activities.

Selma Cafe, Lisa Gottlieb, zoning, Ann Arbor planning, Food System Economic Partnership, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A map posted earlier this year on the Selma Cafe website aimed to address parking and traffic concerns in the neighborhood.

The group has also received notice that the nonprofit Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) has decided to end its fiscal sponsorship of Selma Cafe, citing “significant violations” of the terms in a memorandum of understanding between the two entities. The FSEP board voted to make the move in late March.

But it’s the zoning violations that could force a dramatic change in Selma Cafe, which often draws more than 200 people to the home of co-founder Lisa Gottlieb, located near Eberwhite Elementary School. The letter, dated April 3 from city planning manager Wendy Rampson, notes that home occupations are allowed in residential areas, but with certain restrictions. The letter states that Selma Cafe violates those restrictions in three ways: (1) more people are involved in the operation than are allowed under city code; (2) more than the permitted 10 vehicle trips per day are generated; and (3) the need for parking is not being met.

Reached by phone on Friday, Gottlieb said she plans to hand-deliver a response to the city on Monday. She believes the parking, traffic and congestion issues are resolved, and she is actively pursuing two other locations as possible venues for the weekly breakfasts. She disagrees with the city’s interpretation of the code, noting that Selma Cafe is not a business and the people who work there are volunteers, not employees. Although she hopes to continue holding the breakfasts, she said at this point it’s unclear how things will play out and whether that will be possible.

Gottlieb noted that one neighbor had criticized Selma Cafe for bringing thousands of people to the neighborhood since they started in 2009. Although the neighbor had cited that as a negative thing, Gottlieb said to her it seemed “pretty incredible” that the effort had been able to engage so many people in raising money for the local foodshed, keeping money in the community and helping local farmers.

Regarding the issues raised by FSEP, Gottlieb explained that she had withdrawn funds from the FSEP-managed bank account to transfer into a new account created as Selma Cafe transitions to become an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit. She had not first informed FSEP of the withdrawal, as required under terms of the memorandum of understanding. Even if that had not occurred, she added, “the fact is they wanted to be done with us.”

Obtaining the nonprofit status is taking longer than anticipated, so Selma Cafe is seeking another fiscal sponsor. Until that happens, the funds for Selma that remain in the FSEP-managed account – which total about $40,000 – are frozen. If no new fiscal sponsor is found and Selma does not obtain its 501(c)3 designation by May 31, FSEP could take the Selma assets permanently, under terms of the MOU. If that happened, FSEP would need to allocate those funds “in any manner consistent with applicable tax and charitable trust laws and other obligations.” [Full Story]

A2: Restaurant Week

The Pure Michigan website highlights the upcoming Jan. 20-25 Ann Arbor Restaurant Week, noting that the event is the largest one in Michigan. “To prepare, we decided to talk to some of the rock stars of restaurant week in Ann Arbor.” The featured chefs are Duc Tang of Pacific Rim by Kana, Brandon Johns of The Grange Kitchen & Bar; Brendan McCall of Isalita and Mani Osteria & Bar; Eve Aronoff of Frita Batidos; and John Fischer of Gratzi. [Source]

Greenbelt Group Briefed on Land Link Idea

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Aug. 2, 2012): The main presentation at this month’s meeting focused on land link programs – efforts to connect potential farmers with landowners who want to sell their farms.

Archer Christian

Archer Christian is the newest member of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. She is also development director for the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. (Photos by the writer.)

Bridget Callahan, an intern with the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) and a University of Michigan community-based research fellow, gave the report, describing how a land link program might relate to the city’s farmland preservation efforts. Callahan’s research included surveys of farmers statewide, and a focus group with eight people involved in the Tilian Farm Development Center in Ann Arbor Township.

Also during the Aug. 2 meeting, GAC chair Dan Ezekiel noted that the current contract with The Conservation Fund, which manages the greenbelt program under contract with the city, ends on Dec. 31. Catherine Riseng volunteered to work with city staff in developing a request for proposals (RFP) for a new contract. The Conservation Fund, which has been awarded contracts for this work since the greenbelt program was created, is expected to bid on it again. Ginny Trocchio is the nonprofit’s local staff member.

In updates during the meeting, Trocchio reported that a Sept. 22 greenbelt bus tour will focus on the eastern portion of the greenbelt, and its connection to the Superior Greenway. And Ezekiel told commissioners that he’ll be a guest on the Aug. 22 Issues of the Environment, a talk show broadcast on WEMU.

Commissioners absent from the August meeting included the city council representative to GAC, Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). The only meeting he has attended this year was in April. As he did not run for re-election to the city council, there are only three remaining GAC meetings – in September, October and November – before Hohnke leaves the council and the commission. [Full Story]

Food Policy Council Members Appointed

In action taken at their June 6, 2012 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners appointed 15 members to a new Washtenaw Food Policy Council, and passed amended bylaws. The board of commissioners had given final approval to create the council at its March 21, 2012 meeting.

Members appointed with one-year terms are: Bill Alt (faith-based organization); Amanda Edmonds (urban agriculture); Dena Jaffee (food service); Liz Dahl MacGregor (citizen); Nicole Miller (emergency food system); Lindsey Scalera (education); Dayle Wright (health care); and Patti Smith (human Services).

Members appointed to two-year terms are: Jenna Bacolor (Washtenaw County public health); Nicole Chardoul (Waste management); Gretchen Hofing (nutrition); Tim Redmond (food manufacturer and distributor); Michaelle Rehmann (economic development); Kenny Siler (rural agriculture). County commissioner Yousef Rabhi had previously … [Full Story]

Greenbelt Commission Briefed on Food Hub

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (April 5, 2012): The main item on this month’s GAC agenda was a presentation by local farmer and food activist Richard Andres, who updated commissioners on the Washtenaw Food Hub, a new venture he’s leading that aims to shore up local farmers and build community.

Dan Ezekiel, Richard Andres

From left: Dan Ezekiel, chair of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission, points out other GAC members to Richard Andres, who gave a presentation on the Washtenaw Food Hub. (Photos by the writer.)

Located on 16 acres in Ann Arbor Township, the food hub is envisioned to provide support for farmers to distribute and sell their produce, and for residents to buy food, attend workshops and create meaningful relationships with those who are part of the local food network. The project is still in its formative stages, but has potential to develop a food economy based on a human scale, Andres said, not a Wall Street scale.

GAC chair Dan Ezekiel noted that the hub is an example of the next phase of this region’s local food movement, which he said has “grown like an heirloom tomato” since the greenbelt program launched nearly a decade ago.

Commissioners also got a mid-year financial update on the greenbelt program at this month’s meeting, and heard about potential deep cuts to a federal farmland preservation program that has supported the greenbelt with more than $6 million in grants. The city has recently applied for $1,037,198 in additional grants that would help preserve 519 acres. Ginny Trocchio, support staff for the greenbelt program, also reported that over the next month there will likely be several closings on property within the greenbelt totaling another 300 acres.

Also at the April 5 meeting, Peter Allen – a local developer and GAC commissioner – proposed forming a strategic planning subcommittee to evaluate the greenbelt program so far and to look at what they’d like to accomplish in the future. It’s likely that the commission will formally consider his proposal at their May 3 meeting.

As it typically does, the meeting included a closed session to discuss land acquisitions. When commissioners emerged, they voted on three items – recommending that the city council approve the purchase of development rights on two properties, and to partner with Washtenaw County on a third acquisition. Ezekiel noted that the third item extends an existing county preserve on land that would provide public access and recreational opportunities.

At the end of the meeting, Ezekiel reported that a position on the commission will be opening up this summer. He urged anyone who’s interested to apply and “join the fun.” [Full Story]

County Food Policy Council Gets Final OK

Formation of a county food policy council – with the goal of supporting and coordinating activities in the local food system – was given final approval by Washtenaw County commissioners at their March 21, 2012 meeting. The board had been briefed on this effort at a Feb. 16 working session, and it received initial approval at the board’s March 7 meeting.

The Washtenaw Food Policy Council would support local “small and mid-sized farmers by fostering policies that encourage local food purchasing and production,” according to a staff memo. Among other activities, the council could also: recommend policy changes at the local, state and national levels; provide a forum for discussing food issues; encourage coordination among different sectors of the local food system; evaluate, educate, and … [Full Story]

County Acts on Budget, Health, Policy Issues

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 7, 2012): Although the county board isn’t yet in the heart of discussions for its next two-year budget cycle, the specter of that effort provided a backdrop to action at Wednesday’s meeting. The county faces projected deficits of $11.6 million in 2014 and $14.7 million in 2015.

Jenna Bacolor, Michaelle Rehmann, Al Connor

From left: Jenna Bacolor of the county's public health department, Michaelle Rehmann, Farm to Table director for the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), and Al Connor of the Michigan Farmers Union. All are involved in helping create the Washtenaw Food Policy Council. (Photos by the writer.)

Two items touched directly on salary and compensation. The board gave final approval to an administrative restructuring that’s estimated to save $326,422 annually, and result in the net reduction of four full-time jobs, which are currently vacant. As he did for the initial vote on Feb. 15, commissioner Ronnie Peterson voted against the restructuring, objecting to a 4% increase that will be given to four top managers in a new cross-lateral team, as a result of their job reclassification. Though the county uniformly gives a 4% raise when any job is reclassified, Peterson argued that the county’s leadership should set an example and that the raises will make it more difficult to ask for concessions in future union negotiations in 2014-15.

Also related to upcoming budgets, commissioner Dan Smith presented a draft proposal that would cut compensation for commissioners in 2013-2014. Overall, the proposal would cut total compensation (salary and benefits) by 5.7% per commissioner – from the current $20,213 to a proposed $19,063. He plans to present a formal resolution at the April 4 meeting. The timing would allow the board to make a decision before the May 15 filing deadline for county board candidates.

Another budget-related item came from the public health department, which proposed fee increases to treat sexually transmitted diseases – one of the mandated services provided by the county. The changes, which were approved unanimously, are being made in response to federal funding cuts and an increase in charges for state services. Though he voted in favor of the increases, Peterson raised concerns about the impact on low-income residents. Dick Fleece, director of the public health department, assured the board that no one would be refused treatment because of the inability to pay.

Public health staff also presented an item with almost no budget impact: A proposal to create the Washtenaw Food Policy Council, with the goal of supporting and coordinating activities in the county’s food system. Partners who’ve been working on this initiative include the Y of Ann Arbor, Growing Hope, Food Gatherers, the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), Slow Food Huron Valley, Eat Local/Eat Natural, Michigan Farmers Union, and the Ypsilanti Food Coop. A final vote is expected on March 21.

The board also acted on items related to public safety. They voted to accept a $177,500 state grant from the state’s Economic Vitality Incentive program (EVIP), which provides incentives for local governments to collaborate and combine operations. The grant will help pay for work related to dispatch consolidation between the county sheriff’s office and the city of Ann Arbor.

And in a vote to clear up a procedural move, the board authorized a merger of its countywide 800 megahertz (MHz) emergency communications system with the Michigan Public Safety Communication System. The county’s 800 MHz system is paid for through a 10-year, 0.20-mill tax that Washtenaw County voters approved in May 2006. At the time, the plan called for eventually merging with the statewide system.

During the opportunity for commissioners to raise items of discussion, Wes Prater noted that at the Ann Arbor city council’s March 5 meeting, a four-party agreement to establish a framework for a possible countywide transit system was approved. Prater urged the board to begin discussing the issue, too. [In addition to Ann Arbor, the four parties include the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Ann Arbor city council was the first entity to approve the accord, doing so after postponing action on it three times and deliberating for over 3.5 hours at Monday's meeting. See Chronicle coverage: "Ann Arbor Council OKs Transit Agreement"]

A working session for commissioners to address the four-party agreement has been set for Thursday, March 22.

Prater also wondered why the board hadn’t received any reports from the county treasurer recently. The treasurer, Catherine McClary, gave a 2010 annual treasurer’s report to commissioners early last year, at their Feb. 16, 2011 meeting, but has not yet submitted the 2011 annual report. Board chair Conan Smith asked county administrator Verna McDaniel to contact the treasurer’s office and request a report. [Full Story]

County Food Policy Council Being Formed

Creation of a food policy council – with the goal of supporting and coordinating activities in the county’s local food system – was given initial approval by Washtenaw County commissioners at their March 7, 2012 meeting. The board had been briefed on this effort at a Feb. 16 working session, and several commissioners praised the effort. Final approval is expected at the board’s March 21 meeting.

According to a staff memo, the Washtenaw Food Policy Council would support local “small and mid-sized farmers by fostering policies that encourage local food purchasing and production.” Among other activities, the council could also: recommend policy changes at the local, state and national levels; provide a forum for discussing food issues; encourage coordination among different sectors of the local … [Full Story]

Idea for Night Farmers Market Floated

Ann Arbor public market advisory commission meeting (March 10, 2011): A nighttime farmers market in Ann Arbor is in the works as a pilot program to start on Wednesdays in July.

The Ann Arbor farmers market in Kerrytown

The Ann Arbor public market in Kerrytown is empty and used for parking except for Saturdays, when the farmers market is open, and on Sundays for the artisan market. An additional farmers market is held on Wednesdays from May through December. At left, two women use the e-Park kiosk to pay for their parking on Monday. (Photos by the writer.)

Market manager Molly Notarianni is proposing a producers-only market from 4:30-8:30 p.m., operating as a separate entity from the existing Saturday and Wednesday daytime markets. The significance of having a separate application process is that it would eliminate the seniority system that exists at the other markets. The seniority system makes it difficult for new vendors to get spots in those markets.

Members of the city’s public market advisory commission seemed generally supportive of the idea – they’ll likely weigh in officially at their meeting in May.

The group also discussed revisions to the market vendor application form – including a proposed requirement for lease verification.

The commission is still short two members, a situation that has presented some challenges in the last few months. All three current members need to attend in order to achieve a quorum, and scheduling difficulties have led to cancellation of several of their monthly meetings. The March meeting was rescheduled from Tuesday to Thursday of last week – because of that change, the meeting was not broadcast by Community Television Network (CTN).

Openings remain on the commission for the category of: (1) a market shopper; and (2) someone who lives or works in the Kerrytown district, where the market is located. Applications are available on the market’s website. They must be sent to the mayor, who makes nominations that are then voted on by the city council. [Full Story]

Photo Essay: Fat Tuesday in Ann Arbor

Editor’s note: It’s Fat Tuesday, when thoughts turn to paczki – those dense but irresistible Polish pastries that mark the last hurrah before Lent. This year, for the first time in their 18-year history, Zingerman’s Bakehouse staff got up well before dawn to make their own version, and local photographer Anne Savage was there to catch the action. She’s sharing some of her work with Chronicle readers – you can find many more photos on her new food blog, The Savage Feast. Enjoy!

Nina Huey at Zingerman's Bakehouse

Nina Huey sprinkles powdered sugar on a tray of paczki at Zingerman's Bakehouse Tuesday morning. Ingredients for the dough include bit of Spiritus, a Polish grain alcohol.

[Full Story]