WA Chefs + WA Farmers = Local Economic Boost
For a busy chef or restaurant owner, it's a lot less hassle to order everything from a big food broker rather than seeking out small, local producers. So some of the new Washington Department of Agriculture marketing grants are going to projects that get chefs and farmers together. One recipient is the Cascade Harvest Coalition, where Director Mary Embleton says it's not only about building farmers' small businesses, but about giving consumers some peace of mind.
“You know, we've had all the bad news from China lately, and then all the climate change issues and the long-distance transportation and things like that, so there is a big effort underway by the consumers, that no matter where they're eating, that they can access local food.”
Embleton notes that not all Washington farmers can afford the fees to become "certified organic," but many still use the same sustainable farming practices and don't want to be shut out of a growing market.
One recipient is the Chefs' Collaborative, which hosts an annual conference for chefs to meet their local food suppliers. Seth Caswell is the Seattle chef who heads the local chapter. He says for his restaurant, buying local is paying off with customer loyalty and product quality.
“Knowing the farmer who's growing the vegetables really makes a difference. I don't have to worry that they're being sprayed with pesticides or even being picked unripe and being shipped to me. I know that farmers, with their integrity, are going to give me the best product.”
Caswell adds that the group's goal is to rebuild the local food economy in Washington with less reliance on imported and processed foods.