July 14th to July 21st was Eat Local First Week 2012 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Eat Local First was a campaign started by Think Local First, with the purpose of giving attention to local restaurants, local farms, and the people who make food that’s grown locally more accessible to the rest of us. The main goal was to educate, inform, and inspire the public to eat locally grown food as much as possible.
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure and honor of attending the industry panel and reception that was held at the Phillips Collection Auditorium in Dupont Circle.
The panel consisted of: Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms; Ann Yonkers of FreshFarm Markets; Jim Epstein of Blue Ridge Produce; Tommy Langford of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market and Dawson’s Market; Erin Johnson of Sandy Spring CSA, David Winer of Eat Well DC, and was moderated by the local Flavor Magazine.
While I wasn’t fortunate enough to hear the whole session of panel discussion due to work, I was lucky enough to catch the last hour and become fully engrossed. Three main words that were said often were “participation”, ”passion”, and “awareness”. If more businesses would create public awareness campaigns and get the public involved, local food would bring more of a profit. People are more willing to pay when they know the value of what they’re getting and the process behind the food getting into their hands at a farmer’s market or onto their plates at a restaurant.
Another point made during the discussion was what consumers support by choosing to buy local food. As we all know, local food/crops come from farms in VA, WV, etc. Buy purchasing these, we help support the families that own these farms and the farms themselves. In buying regular produce, we simply buy mass chemicals.
What makes local food so special? The passion behind it. The way that each fruit and vegetable is raised. The relationship and integrity of the farmer who takes time and genuinely cares about his land and the crops that it bares. The reconnection of flavor with the terroir (soil) that’s used. The passion trickles down from the farmer, to the owner of the restaurant, to the chef preparing the food, to the plate of the customer. Passion is what you taste when you eat something wonderful. While it’s not a requirement for food to be local in order for it to taste great, there is certainly a difference between what comes from locally grown crops and what comes from a corporate institution.