Todd Zawistowski

It’s a brisk, blue-sky morning in early May, and Ann Dougherty is clucking around Pellston Market’s crimson-walled dining room like a mother hen. “Time to get going, everybody,” she says to the men and women in her group, all busy checking out the gourmet edibles inside chef Nancy Kelly’s eclectic grocery/eatery in downtown Pellston.

Three couples signed up for today’s culinary adventure with Dougherty’s nascent agritourism company, Learn Great Foods. As soon as her participants finish paying for their bottles of wine and cheeses, Dougherty will spend the rest of the day tantalizing their taste buds with organic foods and wines, fare from local farmers and a trip to a buffalo ranch near Cheboygan, where newborn calves the size of big dogs suckle milk from their mastodon-like moms.

The finale will be the hands-on preparation of a meal of mostly local foods, finessed by an eco-conscious haute-cuisine chef, and consumed with gusto over white linens in the chandeliered dining room of the Terrace Inn, a vintage Bay View hotel. All the while, without a hint of preaching, Dougherty will demonstrate the benefits of eating and buying local—not just for the environmental, economic and safety implications, but for the sheer pleasure of enjoying Northern Michigan’s abundance. Food just tastes better when it’s fresh and free of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and unpronounceable additives.

Given the never-ending litany of recalls from faraway places, factory farms and unsanitary slaughterhouses, Dougherty’s message couldn’t be more urgent. And yet, so inviting. 

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski