Making It In Northern Michigan: New Long Lake Culinary Campus Combines Capitalism, Community

Chip Hoagland is a character.

The website for his company, Tamarack Holdings, makes that clear: Artsy portraits of the company’s staff set an entertaining tone for a company that calls itself a “… [P]assionate group of professionals leading our family of businesses to successfully reimagine the food and beverage business, one bite at a time.”

Tamarack Holdings’ latest project, buying and extensively renovating the abandoned Long Lake Elementary School, is a Hoagland-esque undertaking. It combines entrepreneurial capitalism with community spirit as it applies to the future of food.

It’s not by chance, then, that Tamarack’s fun website also lists staff members’ eating preferences (curry, seafood, lots of veggies, paella, local paleo, Mediterranean, chocolate and pasta.)

Food for Thought

The 45,000 square-foot former school and surrounding 10-plus acres has been named the Long Lake Culinary Campus. Among the first tenants will be Food for Thought, a purveyor of artisanal jellies, jams and condiments. It is also one of Hoagland’s companies. Food for Thought and its 15 employees have outgrown their present facility on Oviatt Road in Honor, according to Greg Young, a business partner in Food for Thought and managing director of Tamarack Holdings.

At its new digs, Food for Thought, which buys and processes mostly locally grown organic fruit and vegetables, will have a giant freezer and plenty of room to grow. Even so, the company will use only about 30 percent of the building’s floor space.

Small Food Producers

Toward the back of the former school, classrooms and what was once the library have been cleared to make rentable space for local food entrepreneurs, many of whom, according to Young, want to graduate from small direct sales and start distributing their wares to restaurants, grocers and other large customers. The old classrooms are well lit and have updated infrastructure including wireless capability, hot water and updated wiring. They can also be outfitted to accommodate various production needs.
The potential renters are expected to occupy roughly 60 percent of the building and should be an important part of the revenue stream for the campus, Young said.

The Non-Profit Part

The remaining 10 percent or so of the building will be rented by a new non-profit organization, the Grand Traverse Teaching Kitchen and Education Center. The group’s goal is to help northern Michiganders learn to “eat like a chef; think like a dietician” by teaching them how to select, prepare and benefit from healthful food.

The GT Teaching Kitchen takes its inspiration from two sources: the region’s active farm-to-table movement and the concept of “culinary medicine,” which says that the right foods can keep us well. Harvard professor Dr. David Eisenberg, who promoted the idea at the Culinary Medicine Conference in Traverse City last September, said in his keynote address that the Grand Traverse region “might just be the place that will invent the future for a healthy, resilient community.”

Grand Opening

A few rooms are almost ready to be used, but most of the Long Lake Culinary Campus is still a construction site. LED lighting and insulation are being installed along with other resource-saving measures. Outside, work is underway on a large pole barn to house a tractor and various hand tools that will be used in a large garden.

The grand opening is likely to happen in early fall. When the facility opens, all the renters will be able to take advantage of in-house workout facilities, a room for nursing mothers and an on-site childcare facility.

The breakdown:

  • Roughly 30 percent of the 45,000 square-foot building will be used by Food for Thought
  • 60 percent of the building will be available for rent by local food entrepreneurs
  • About 10 percent will be occupied by Grand Traverse Teaching Kitchen and Education Center