Fresh & Local
Restaurants and Josey Wales: Always Looking for an Edge
Column #40, Published June 22nd, 2012
There is currently a food revolution going on. Locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat, and the way we think about food.
When I sit down to write this column every week, there is always a dilemma of deciding what to write about. Fortunately, when you write about a revolution, there are always lots of possibilities. The problem is that I am never sure what readers will find interesting. I am usually surprised by which columns generate the biggest reactions.
One reliable source of good subjects is my brother-in-law Chris. I have discovered that the columns I have written on subjects he suggested all seem to have been well received. So there is no reason to mess with what works.
Chris emailed me a list of restaurants that he has been to recently that offered locally grown menu items. The list included Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville, Fireworks Pizza in Leesburg, and Clyde’s in Ashburn. He is right. Locally grown food offerings at restaurants are becoming common.
It was restaurant demand for locally grown produce that caused us to go into this business full time. A local food wholesaler was unable to meet the demand from restaurants and offered us an agreement to grow greens for them. Much of our spinach, lettuce and mesclun production ultimately winds up at restaurants.
The web site centralrestaurant.com has a blog item titled, “5 Reasons for Restaurants to Buy Locally Grown and Raised Food” written by Amber Coleman. Here are her five reasons: 1) Food is fresher and healthier, 2) Support local economy, 3) Improve the environment, 4) It’s good for business, and 5) Seasonality forces menu rotation.
The first three reasons are general benefits of locally grown food, and are not specific to restaurants. I’ve written about all three in previous columns and won’t repeat myself here. The last two reasons are specific to restaurants, with number 4) being the really important one.
Explaining why it is good for business, Ms. Coleman wrote, “In the past few years, the farm-to-table movement has become increasingly popular and in order to keep up with the times as well as customer demand more and more restaurants are beginning to search out local sources to find items grown close to home. The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program says, ‘Chefs and restaurant patrons pay premium prices for top-quality, distinctive, locally grown products.’ They add that, ‘An increasing number of restaurants identify farms in their menu item descriptions and in other promotions.’ This alone can boost your restaurants reputation as not only a trendy locavore spot, but also a supporter and promoter of other local businesses.”
In other words, the restaurant business is very competitive. Many restaurants – just like the gunfighter Josey Wales - are always looking for an edge and locally grown food is increasingly popular.
Chris’s email about restaurants also mentioned The Restaurant at Pawtomack Farm in Lovettsville. This is a farm that hosts what are called, “farm-to-fork” dinners of entirely locally grown food. I mention this because a group of Culpeper growers has talked about putting together one of these dinners to showcase products grown here in Culpeper. I plan on discussing “farm-to-fork” dinners in a future column.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org