When you spend your hard-earned money to dine at a restaurant, do you savor ingredients from a giant can that traveled hundreds of miles via a food service company or would you rather eat from a local farm? East Tennesseans who prefer real, farm-fresh food have the chance to support the local food economy with a special week of culinary celebration in September.
Chef Drew McDonald is one of the local restaurant owners who plans on donating a portion of proceeds from Back to the Roots Restaurant Week September 22 – 28 to the Certified Naturally Grown certification program for farmers. Like a few mindful chefs, McDonald likes to visit the farms that source much of the food he serves at The Plaid Apron. He makes a weekly call to see what favorite growers like Adrienne Gibson at A Place of the Heart Farm in Pioneer are harvesting.
On the weekend we stopped by the restaurant, McDonald showed us freshly delivered kale, leeks, roma tomatoes, herbs and pattypan squash. “He’s an amazing chef!” bragged Gibson. Although she’s particular about using organic, non-genetically modified seeds and won’t spray toxic, persistent pesticides, Gibson doesn’t feel she can afford the USDA Organic certification for her two and a half acre farm. Instead, she uses third party certification from CNG to show she uses sustainable growing methods. Although she doesn’t use the USDA seal, Gibson likes the less bureacratic process of becoming part of the CNG community and says, “I’m personally committed to organics.”
McDonald, who opened The Plaid Apron with wife Bonni just over three years ago, encourages people to shop farmers’ markets or buy community support agriculture (CSA) shares for home cooking. With his years of culinary experience, he offers added value at the restaurant to what is already great-tasting, fresh food. His goal is to source food from within 40 miles of his restaurant. “If you’re wanting to support a local community, it comes full circle when you are buying local..when you are serving things from people you know, how they grow them, what they are, where their seeds come from, it’s definitely a practice of a lifestyle. Coming from the farmer to the plate to the consumer, it’s boosting everyone’s lifestyle!”
CNG Director Alice Varon said about the September event, “CNG is organizing Back to the Roots Restaurant Week in select cities to help connect local restaurants to the family farms at the heart of the good food movement. We strongly believe that such collaboration and support is necessary to help the good food movement grow. We will feature restaurants that source ingredients from local farms. The chefs at participating restaurants understand that serving local ingredients has two big benefits – it makes their dishes shine and strengthens the area’s farming community. During Back to the Roots Restaurant Week, these chefs will extend their support for farmers by contributing a portion of their sales to support the work of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).
Local nonprofit demonstration Beardsley Farm is helping get the word out about the Restaurant Week. Beardsley’s food is donated to the needy, but it is also a teaching site where locals can learn agricultural skills.”Becoming certified organic can be very costly for family farms,” said Farm Manager Khann Chov, “so certified naturally grown is a great alternative for people who are practicing sustainably but who just can’t afford that stamp.”
What’t the best reason to visit local restaurants that buy local, organic food like you find at CNG farms? “It just tastes better,” exclaimed Chef McDonald confidently, “Bring me anything from a grocery or produce company and we’ll compare side by side.”
Participating Back to the Roots Restaurant Week businesses include:
More details and a way to RSVP here at the Certified Naturally Grown website.
This post is a public service announcement by FlourSackMama.com in support of the East Tennessee organic food economy and Certified Naturally Grown. If you’d like to see more blog content here about organic agriculture and simple living, please show your support by subscribing to our newsletter, telling your friends about this blog, and connecting with us via Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.