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Big dreams, small towns focus of farm conference

Courtesy Photo Amy Emberling of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor will be the keynote speaker of Farm to Fork Alcona’s third annual Small Farm Conference on Feb. 28 and 29 at Lost Lake Woods Club in Lincoln.

LINCOLN — Farm to Fork Alcona’s third annual small farm conference, titled Big Dreams, Small Towns, is planned for Feb. 28 and 29 at Lost Lake Woods Club.

The two-day event will feature Amy Emberling, managing partner at the Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s Bakehouse, as keynote speaker.

The conference kicks off at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 with a presentation on milling and baking with Michigan-grown grains. Emberling will lead the presentation and attendees will also get to sample some of Zingerman’s food.

Emberling will also make two presentations on Feb. 29. The Feb. 29 event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Farm to Fork Committee member Mary Ellen Jones said the conference will also feature a ZingTrain workshop for people in all areas of the food industry. Jones said the Zingerman’s reputation for customer service is stellar, and the bakery has been nominated for James Beard Awards for training and customer service.

“They do half-day, full-day, or two-day workshops for people in all areas of the food industry and their reputation for customer service is stellar,” Jones said. “We’re doing a condensed version, but it’s still the same information.”

Those attending the conference will also hear an update on the Northern Market in Grayling from Doug Paulus and hear about a new educational opportunity for Alcona Community Schools from Superintendent Dan O’Connor.

Farm to Fork Chairwoman Judy MacNeill said the Northern Market is going to be “a game changer” for farmers in Northeast Michigan. She said it’s going to open up a lot more distribution opportunities for farmers in the region.

Jones said Alcona Community Schools has bought 43 acres behind the district’s property and officials are working to turn it into an outdoor enrichment center. District officials are invested in agri-education, she said.

“We’re very fortunate to have such an advanced agri-education program here, they’re trying to take it to the next level,” MacNeill said.

A panel discussion on bringing dreams to life is also planned. Panelists include Greg Konwinski, of the Hungry Hippie, Randy Mellberg, with Grace Acres, Katherine Wilbur, of New Sun Farm and Woodland Confectionary, James Glazier, from Cedarbrook Trout Farms in Harrisville, and Erin Quaine, of Wild Hair Farms in Atlanta.

MacNeill said that, because it’s a slower time of the year, the conference is a good time for area farmers and foodies to do some networking and gather ideas.

“That’s the thing about conferences: That’s where I get my best ideas from — talking to other like-minded people, and that’s what this is all really about,” she said.

The conference costs $50 for Friday’s tasting or $100 for both days of the conference. Meals are included in the cost of the event. MacNeill said the conference will be a certified local food event by Taste the Local Difference, which means at least 20% of the food came from local sources.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

If you go

∫ WHAT: Big Dreams, Small Towns

∫ WHEN: Feb. 28 and 29

∫ WHERE: Lost Lake Woods Club, 4243 Lost Lake Trail, Lincoln

∫ HOW MUCH: $50 per day

∫ INFO: For more information or to register for the conference, visit Farm to Fork Alcona online at f2falcona.org.