Are You “Connected” With Your Food?
“People want to be connected to where their food comes from…” It makes sense and is evident at restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets that are current with consumer trends.
The idea of being connected to local Virginia food was among discussion at Friday’s Farmers Forum. Panelists included Matt Lohr – Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Kurt Krause of The National Conference Center, Christopher Carpenter of Washington & Lee, Derek Kilmer of Kilmer’s Farm Market, and Emily Manley of The Local Food Hub.
Important Topics of Discussion – you’ll be surprised to learn some of things we did…
- Matt Lohr, Virginia Department of Agriculture: “People want to be connected to where their food comes from…”
- Deptartment of Agriculture partners with chefs and restaurants (in DC and VA) to provide local Virginia products.
- Their Farm-to-School initiative encourages schools to purchase food locally. 30% of food at Ferrum College is locally grown.
- They also give opportunities for producers and farmers to apply for grants.
- Kurt Krause, The National Conference Center, Virginia: “All dirt roads lead to success…”
- Believes in providing local fresh food to guests but the needs of the conference center will require help from the farmers, such as 1 ton of potatoes on a budget.
- Menu tastings at the conference center feature local food items and the guests love this. It proves there’s a growing interest in knowing where your food has originated from. Kurt hopes provide local food for all meals.
- On the weekend, one 800 space parking lot at the conference center sits empty. Can this parking lot be the granddaddy of farmers markets? It would prevent farmers in WV, Loudoun County, and other nearby counties from traveling to D.C. every weekend. Farmers like this idea as time is one of the most valuable things!
- Christopher Carpenter, Washington and Lee University (W&L), DC: “People love good food; they deserve good food.”
- The wine industry in Virginia has created an economic renaissance and now local foods will.
- As special projects coordinator and a current chairman of VA Food Systems Council, Chris Carpenter has transformed W&L’s dining services into providing 35-45% local goods including milk, ice cream, produce and more.
- How is it possible to purchase mass quantities on a budget for a campus or hotel? W&L creates their own sauces and dressings rather than purchasing; this creates money in a budget for food that is local.
- When you eat local your eating patterns change. Their homemade ice cream from Homestead Farms is more filling; it doesn’t have air like most processed ice creams. “Students love it, but eat less of it because of this.”
- Vine-ripe tomatoes at the store have 70% less nutritional value than VA grown tomatoes.
- College students are the most concerned about the health of America- students from other campuses continuously call Chris to help integrate healthy local items into their school’s dining services.
- When we bring out-of-state companies to do work, 43 cents of every dollar goes out of state, when it’s in-state production 78 cents of every dollar stays in the community.
- Derek Kilmer, Kilmer’s Farm Market, WV – “Farmers want to be farming…”
- Farming is a full-time job. Between accounting, marketing, traveling to farmers markets, planting, harvesting, and finding vendors – at the end of the day, farmers need time to farm.
- His parents operate the family farm and Derek utilizes his business skills to find vendors. Derek is in charge of supplying WV & DC schools, as well as the VA Hospital with produce.
- Emily Manley, Local Food Hub, VA – “Specialization of food origin creates values to the product…”
- Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA pairs farmers with practical vendors.
- The non-profit organization works to keep the identity of farms – by making sure people know where the produce is from. Local Food Hub doesn’t mix one farm’s carrots with the carrots of another farm. People want to know where their food is from and they want to taste it too!
As a hotel, school, restaurant, conference center, or other type of facility – what are you doing to bring local farm foods into your menu? How do you manage your budget?
Other great resources: saveourfood.org, foodfortherestofus.com, and loudounfarmers.org