GETTING STARTED “I gain great pleasure in the foods that I can access from closer to home because I hear people’s stories about them; they taste fresher; they have more fragrance and texture.” – Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Coming Home to Eat According to the National Restaurant Association, “locally grown food” was the top restaurant trend of 2010. But for many chefs and their patrons, local food is more than a trend. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. People are asking for locally grown and sustainably raised food because of the environmental benefits, great taste, and their desire to support local farmers. There are many definitions of local food, and each restaurant must decide how it defines “local.” For the purpose of this guide, local food means food grown within the five-state Upper Midwest region. U S I N G T H I S G U I D E Although cooking with seasonal, locally grown foods is not a new concept, (indeed, it is very old), it can be a new experience for many chefs. This guide is intended to be an introduction to the “whys” and “hows” of using local food in a restaurant or other food service establishment. It does not contain a complete list of farmers or their products - these lists are available online through many sources. See the links in the “Finding Local Product” and “Additional Resources” section. W H Y B U Y L O C A L F O O D ? Support the Local Economy Buying locally produced food generates income for the local economy and puts money directly into the pocket of farmers. You have the power to support family farmers in our region, protect our land, and build rural economies. 1 Quality and Taste Locally grown products are fresher. Period. Most chefs report the taste, texture, and freshness of local product are vastly superior to items sourced from across the globe.
W H Y B U Y L O C A L F O O D ? C O N T I N U E D Variety Since local foods don’t need to travel far, local farmers grow varieties based on flavor rather than on their ability to withstand a long journey. Local farmers produce a wide range of interesting vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat and cheeses that may not be available from traditional food distribution channels. Many farmers may grow specialty items specifically for you, even if they don’t currently grow them. Relationship with the Farmer When you buy directly from a farmer, you know how the food was grown and the animals were raised. Even if the food is not certified organic, you can ask about the farm’s growing practices or visit the farm. Often long-lasting friendships develop between chefs and farmers, and many chefs discover new foods and ideas. Differentiated Consumers are seeking food that reflects our state’s distinct seasons and regions. By filling your menu with local ingredients and promoting the farmers who grew the food, you are providing a varied and interesting experience for your customer. W H AT C A N I B U Y L O C A L LY ? Local food is available year-round in Minnesota. Fresh vegetables are usually available from May-November, and extend even later if you consider storage crops like onions and potatoes. Many farmers are putting up “hoop houses” or greenhouses to further extend the growing season. While the months of July and August bring us the largest bounty of fresh vegetables, look beyond produce for year-round local ingredients. Milk, cheese, butter, eggs, honey, maple syrup, breads and dry beans are available year-round from local producers. Beef, pork, chicken, bison, elk, duck, veal, rabbit and other meats are available year-round from many local farmers. Flour, cornmeal, wheatberries, oats, flax, wild rice, and other grains are available from many local farmers year-round too. The chart on page 3 shows the peak season for some locally grown produce. 2