Why should I include local items on my menu?
Head Chef of Savoy Bar and Grill, Bob Peterson, sources many locally grown ingredients and he is always looking for more. Like many chefs, he values the flavors and textures that local ingredients bring to his menu, and his customers love the fresh taste.
Savoy currently serves Talus Wind Ranch lamb and Old Windmill Dairy goat cheese year round, and last year they had fresh local produce on their menu from March to December. They are able to source more produce during the harvest season, but work with local growers to include cool season crops during the spring and late fall.
There are a variety of reasons to include locally grown items on your menu.
How do I find locally grown ingredients?
Farmers markets are the best place to start, as you can meet local growers and see what crops are available each month during the growing season. From there you can:
Are there any barriers to using locally grown ingredients?
Generally cost and quantity are the two main barriers. Locally grown ingredients can sometimes be more expensive, but compared to products from major food distributors, you just can't beat the taste of truly farm fresh and artisanal products. It's important to run your numbers and look at how locally grown ingredients can fit into your business plan. With the issue of quantity, many choose to feature a "local" dish, which is available until it runs out. Some also choose to focus on just a few local items they can find in quantity, such as meat, cheese, and commonly grown produce items.
Should I advertise that I use local products?
Absolutely. By letting your customers know which products are locally grown, you advertise your support for local agriculture thereby expanding your market potential. Also, it provides great advertising for the local farms which you source ingredients from, furthering the partnership between your businesses. If you are serving local in a school, advertising the farms where products came from can serve as a valuable educational tool.
What resources are available to me?
The Agriculture Collaborative hosts monthly meetings on a variety of topics, many of which are of interest to crop and livestock producers. Sign up today for our e-newsletter and learn about upcoming meetings and workshops or view our past meeting topics online. Our Local Food Blog and our Events Calendar can help keep you up to date on what is happening locally and nationally with local foods and agriculture. Be sure to also see the chefs and food service resource listing.