The locavore movement—proliferated by mindful individuals who are true proponents of promoting local foods—has definitely found its niche. Not only does the philosophy endorse locally sourced foods and the growth of local economies, it also capitalizes on sustainability. Savvy individuals have begun to realize the value and benefits of nourishing our own health and wellness and not relying on large, multi-tiered corporations with self-serving interests that come down to the bottom line. We are now asking ourselves “Where is my food coming from?”
This is a question that restaurateurs are asking themselves as well. No longer are they simply ordering meat, seafood and produce from suppliers, preparing it, serving it and watching with an air of complacency as diners devour the end result. Restaurateurs are increasingly becoming more attuned to the benefits and value of locally sourced foods. This implies a more cognizant approach to what is being eaten, which drives home the values associated with sustainability.
Many restaurants around the country—from sophisticated high-end dining rooms to modest mom and pop eateries—have answered the call to foster better eating habits and offer a show of solidarity and support for the local economy. Regardless of where the restaurant falls on the culinary scale—from traditional American fare to exotic ethnic cuisine—the one central theme that can be agreed upon is that seasonal availability of locally sourced meats and produce means fresher, more enjoyable meals will make their way to our tables.
Time is of the essence. Locally sourced food means just that: local. It’s not food that’s been freeze dried, sat in a warehouse for days on end and then shipped for arrival at the grocery store two weeks and 1,500 miles later. It means eating real food—part of nature’s harvest, the bounty of the earth from local sources—not food items of unknown origins that come conveniently packaged in a cardboard box.
When you think of farm-fresh food, locally sourced or sustainable, your thoughts may stray to the heartland of America, but just as sustainability can be thought of in terms of local, so too can the sources of such fare. That’s because there are an abundance of restaurants right here in our own back yard that take this wholesome approach to providing customers with delicious food based on the locavore and farm-to-table concept.
Linda Piotrowicz of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DOAG) is well-versed in bringing together food service professionals and chefs with Connecticut sources. The Connecticut Farm-to-Chef Program falls under the auspices of the DOAG and, according to Linda, has been in existence since 2006.
In 2010, the FTC Program held the first Connecticut Farm to Harvest Celebration Week which involved restaurants and food service businesses and their creation of special menus consisting of at least four items with each showcasing one or more ingredients that is Connecticut grown. The initiative was a great way for restaurants and other foodservices businesses to get involved with the burgeoning sustainable food advancement and help promote a consciousness and understanding of the origins of the foods that consumers eat every day.
On the success of the Celebration Week, Linda noted, “I did get some feedback from the public which was very positive. It was the first year, and somewhat of an experiment.” Plans are in the works now for a much-anticipated and hoped for second Harvest Celebration Week. When asked what positive effects was the outcome of the Harvest Celebration Week, Linda replied without hesitation. “It increased awareness by the public of what’s available locally.” Which was precisely one of the goals of the Harvest Celebration Week. “Another objective would be to further connect chefs and producers to encourage them to seek out additional products and to be creative with the products that are available.”
But it is not just restaurants that have gotten in on the act. Outside of restaurants, consumers can put their proclivities for sustainability and eating locally produced into practice by seeking out local sources for fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat. In the grocery store, look for fruits and produce that come from local farms. This also applies to meats and seafood, and you can find this information out simply by asking the butcher, fishmonger or manager if these products are locally sourced.
Farmers’ markets have been around for a long time, but their growing popularity reflects a shift in eating habits of many Americans. We want wholesome, fresh-from-the-vine foods that are locally produced. From small farms to large, the demand for freshness is paramount, and locally sourced foods provide just that.
Advantages to Eating Locally
• Flavors are more vibrant—in short, the food just tastes better
• A healthier lifestyle
• Supporting the local economy
• Locally grown is fresher and has a longer shelf life
• Supporting farming community
• Discovering new flavors through more variety
• Seasonal eating
• Preservation of green space
• Reduces the carbon footprint
What Can You Do to Promote Sustainable Agriculture?
• Buy foods that are harvested at local farms.
• Grow your own garden.
• Work to promote economically viable and sound communities
• Get educated! There are hundreds of resources across the web to educate the public on the benefits of sustainable agriculture and food practices.
• Frequent farmers markets.
• Build and/or contribute to community gardens.
• Get involved with Community Supported Agriculture groups (CSAs)
o Just Food .org – valuable information on CSAs in NYC
o CSA-CNY – information on CSAs in Central New York
o Clean Plates – an online guide to healthier eating in NYC
o Local Harvest – provides information on CSAs in general
o CT NOFA – resources for CSAs in Connecticut
o Local Food Guide to Connecticut – search for CSA and farmers markets in Connecticut
• Support businesses that produce and grow food locally.
• Remember, green is in!