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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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local food sourcing

Online Marketplace Connects Western Michigan Chefs to Local Produce

April 6, 2016 |
Grand Rapids-based West Michigan FarmLink offers regular opportunities for farmers and chefs to get to know each other at “happy hour” events. (photo courtesy Jerry Adams/West Michigan FarmLink)

Grand Rapids-based West Michigan FarmLink offers regular opportunities for farmers and chefs to get to know each other at “happy hour” events. (Photo courtesy Jerry Adams/West Michigan FarmLink)

Western Michigan is incredibly rich in the agricultural products it provides, but matching this great food with local wholesale buyers can still pose a challenge.

So food aficionado Jerry Adams came up with West Michigan FarmLink, an online marketplace in Grand Rapids that connects growers to chefs and other institutional end-users of foodstuffs.

It was during a trip to a farmers’ market that Adams first got the idea for an organization that links farmers to restaurants and other foodservice institutions. Despite his affinity for farmers’ markets, he saw areas in which they were lacking. Read More

To Grow Movement, California Chef Makes 100 Percent Fresh, Local Produce Menu’s Main Event

February 10, 2016 |
Fresh local produce adds a mighty splash of color to the kitchen inside Health’s Kitchen restaurant in Riverside, California. (photo courtesy Robin Meadows/Health’s Kitchen)

Fresh local produce adds a mighty splash of color to the kitchen inside Health’s Kitchen restaurant in Riverside, California. (Photo courtesy Robin Meadows/Health’s Kitchen)

For some, the word “local” can be ambiguous. But Health’s Kitchen restaurant in Riverside, California, has strict rules regarding where it obtains its produce. Ideally, it must come from farms located in the City of Riverside, and when this isn’t possible, only Riverside County farms will suffice.

“Fresh produce is the main event on the menu,” says Health’s Kitchen co-owner Robin Meadows. “There are a few restaurants that obtain some of their food locally, but we get 100 percent of our produce from local farmers.” Read More

Real Food Challenge: Student Activists Help Campuses Eat Smarter

December 22, 2015 |
Real Food Challenge at San Francisco State University, Courtesy of Real Food Challenge.

Real Food Challenge at San Francisco State University. Courtesy of Real Food Challenge.

Institutional food systems are typically a tough nut for food activists to crack, relying as they do on economies of scale and mass logistics. But the growing movement toward real, sustainable eating has a natural ally in hungry, well-informed college students – and ever since 2008, the Real Food Challenge organization has helped them speak with one voice for change.

The challenge “leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system,” according to the organization’s mission statement. 

To that end, the Real Food Generation organization – founded by Ghanian-born Harvard Kennedy School grad Anim Steel – provides coordination, support and tools to campus organizations that are working toward change. Read More

Massachusetts Teenager Hooked on Local Ag After Completing ‘30 Day Challenge’ to Survive on Local Farm’s Produce

December 3, 2015 |
Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Sixteen-year-old Noah Kopf recently embarked on a challenge to eat only foods he produced or grew on his own for 30 days. The name of the challenge was appropriately called “Homegrown 30: A Month of Backyard Eating.” Kopf was successful – and while he says he found the challenge trying at times, he learned a lot during his journey.

Kopf first became interested in local agriculture about five years ago. “My family got a CSA at a local community farm and part of the requirement for the CSA is a certain amount of working volunteer hours,” he says. “My mom would bring me over after middle school and I helped weed the beds and pick stuff. I really enjoyed the work. I thought it was really cool that people were growing so much food right around us.” Read More

New Alliance Strives to Preserve Rich Local Food Culture of Louisiana’s Acadiana Region

November 24, 2015 |
Okra, used in gumbo, jambalaya and other Cajun/Creole foods, is one of several locally-grown crops in southern Louisiana’s Acadiana region. (photo courtesy Chris Adams/Acadiana Food Alliance)

Okra, used in gumbo, jambalaya and other Cajun/Creole foods, is one of several locally-grown crops in southern Louisiana’s Acadiana region. (Photo courtesy Chris Adams/Acadiana Food Alliance)

The rich Cajun and Creole food tradition of southern Louisiana’s French-speaking region of Acadiana is the target of preservation efforts by a new local food alliance.

Until recently, efforts to bolster local foods in the Acadiana region were disparate and disjointed, according to Christopher Adams, executive director of the Cultural Research Institute of Acadiana. The Acadiana Food Alliance is trying to change that.

“There’s been a fair amount of movement in the area for local food, including an upsurge in farmers’ markets and lots of restaurants featuring local food on menus,” says Adams. “These have been independent and scattered efforts, with lots of individual potentials. Our hope is to bring together an effective collaboration.”

The journey toward the new food alliance began in February 2014 when about 30 interested people began meeting regularly. The group applied for technical assistance from the U.S. EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program, and were one of 26 recipients (out of 300 applicants) nationwide. The Local Foods, Local Places program seeks to enhance economic opportunities for locally based farmers and businesses by improving access to healthy local food and supporting food hubs, farmers’ markets, and community gardens and kitchens. Read More

Survey Shows New Hampshire Residents Want More Local Produce

November 10, 2015 |
Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

A survey out of the University on New Hampshire has uncovered a few surprising bits of information about the value consumers place on local produce.

The survey questioned 200 people and was conducted by John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics, and university students.

“There’s a lot of momentum toward producing more of our food locally and a lot of statements being made about how we should buy X percent of our food locally, and how if we just did this we’d produce all these jobs,” Halstead says. “I felt like there hasn’t been a lot of real economic research done that talks about why, for example, don’t we do this now if it’s such a great idea? Why is nobody doing it, and if it is such a great idea, what’s keeping it from taking hold?” Read More

Website Fights ‘Local-wash’, Reveals Which Food Retailers Truly Serve Up Local

October 26, 2015 |
A screenshot of the Local Local website features three of its key features: searching for, discovering, and connecting with food businesses that provide local fare. (image courtesy Reed Shelger/Local Local)

A screenshot of the Local Local website features three of its key features: searching for, discovering, and connecting with food businesses that provide local fare. (image courtesy Reed Shelger/Local Local)

A popular new restaurant proclaims that it serves only local food and drink. But how do its customers know if the restaurant’s food is truly local? A new website looks to answer this question.

Local Local, founded by Reed Shelger in 2014, provides an online directory of restaurants and other food retailers that procure and sell local foods.

Shelger, who worked as a consultant in the commercial food industry after earning an undergraduate degree in managerial economics from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in business administration from Rice University, saw firsthand how grocery stores and restaurants “local-wash.” “Local-washing” is defined as exaggerating or fabricating the extent to which food comes from local sources.   Read More

Southern California Restaurant Group Sees Hydroponics as Key to Continued Growth

September 30, 2015 |
Tender Greens works with a variety of farms in procuring their produce. (photo courtesy Christina Wong/Tender Greens)

Tender Greens works with a variety of local farms in procuring their produce. (Photo courtesy Christina Wong/Tender Greens)

Tender Greens, a Southern California-based restaurant chain committed to serving up high-quality local foods, is increasingly relying on hydroponics and other forms of indoor growing methods to supply its restaurants.

As the company continues to grow (it currently has multiple locations in several major metropolitan areas in California), co-founder Erik Oberholtzer sees numerous advantages to procuring food from hydroponic farms.

One benefit, according to Oberholtzer, is meeting increased demand for locally-grown plants that don’t travel well, such as herbs and lettuces. Other advantages include saving money by requiring less water and energy, reduced crop loss, better pest control, and higher plant quality. Read More