Local “Fare” Trade
Boston is a great place to be in July. This is especially true if you are a fan of fresh, local and seasonal foods. Local farms in the Greater Boston area are proudly presenting the produce that we all were pining for in February. Local food businesses are now able to purchase from farms and farmers’ markets so that people can taste that local is, in fact, better. Clearly, Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston (SBN) understands this and stands behind it 100%. On July 13th, the Seaport World Trade Center sponsored SBN’s “Buy Local Workshop and Mini-Trade Show” where local food producers, preparers, and consumers gathered to connect and start gearing up for the 10th anniversary of Restaurant Week Boston® in August and the Boston Local Food Festival on October 2nd. This year’s Restaurant Week Boston has over 200 restaurants participating, and thanks to SBN, a grant from MA Dept. of Agriculture and the local food movement more generally, over half of these restaurants have committed to using locally-sourced foods. When I attend food events I look for two things: first, the food needs to be excellent. No surprises there. Second, but equally important, I always hope that the people behind the food are just as impressive. I hit both marks on multiple occasions as I strolled the Trade Show floor (after gobbling down a blueberry muffin loaded with freshly picked local blueberries, courtesy of Boston Organics!). Thankfully, I arrived in the full Waterfront Ballroom just in time to hear opening remarks by Laury Hammel, Executive Director of SBN. Hammel stated, “Our job is to make eating local food easier. There’s no EASY button. It takes time, energy, and connections. Today is an opportunity to make these connections. It’s already happening.” This statement was book-ended by Hammel taking bites of locally-grown lettuce. He commented on the fresh taste of the produce, but this wasn’t for show. It was clear that he is “walking the talk” day-to-day and that he supports his local farmers and other food producers. Nathan L’Etoile, Assistant Commissioner, of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) followed Hammel’s comments with some interesting statistics regarding how Massachusetts fares in the grand scheme of the food industry. According to L’Etoile, “Massachusetts is 2nd in New England for direct sales of farm products to consumers. With $42M in direct sales, Massachusetts farmers were responsible for 40 percent of New England’s total.” He later mentioned that, “More than 80% of Massachusetts farms are family-owned,” and that, “Massachusetts ranks 1st in the U.S. for farmland value at $12,202 per acre.” Massachusetts is more than holding its own, but we can do more. Boston-area food guru, Jamey Lionette next introduced Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance’s (NAMA) coordinating director, Niaz Dorry, who took the stage and delivered an excellent “state of the union” on fishing and oceans. Dorry cautioned that we need to be more vigilant in our efforts to “fish in tune with the ocean. We’ve learned a lot from the food grown on land movement…more and more CSFs (Community Supported Fisheries) are popping up, following the model of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares.” Dorry pointed to the Port Clyde (Maine) CSF and Eastman’s Local Catch (New Hampshire) as two examples of New England businesses leading the charge in the local fish industry. There is no doubt that I received an education in the short span of the opening remarks, but I was definitely anxious to get to all of the tables. From Nella’s Pasta, to Wilson’s Farm, to Savenor’s, to Four Star Farm, I made some new friends and got to shake hands with some of the folks that have fed me so well. Tastings at the tables of Grillo’s Pickles, Fazenda Coffee, Green River Ambrosia, and Hedgie’s Hot Stuff all confirmed that Restaurant Week Boston’s 10th Anniversary will be the best yet BECAUSE of locally-sourced food. All of the participants at the Buy Local Workshop and Mini-Tradeshow were bringing not only great food to the table, but a passion about quality food that you could almost, well, taste. Restaurant Week Boston® promises to be outstanding. I can’t wait to take full advantage of it and to look at menus that proudly showcase New England’s best offerings. This article is written by Jon Ross-Wiley, of Local in Season, one of the featured Bloggers of Boston Local Food Festival. Click to find out more about Restaurant Week’s Local Menu Option to find a list of restaurants participating from August 15-20, and August 22-27.