Posted on Tue, May 22, 2012 by Slow Food USA
2 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Slow Food Chapters in Action,
Written by Sarah Fritschner, Coordinator of Louisville Farm to Table
When Slow Food USA chose Louisville as its 2012 National Congress location, ears perked and anxiety rose. We in Louisville consider ourselves a food-savvy city, with a high proportion of independently-owned restaurants, a culinary school, a variety food-oriented non-profits including Slow Food, and our own municipal Food Policy Advisor. We wanted everyone from Slow Food across the country to know our commitment to local, good and accessible food.
Time constraints make it impossible to know everything, of course, but I wanted to expand a bit on Slow Food member, Kim Bayer’s recent comments on AnnArbor.com about Louisville’s approach to food strategy.
Bayer mentioned the report that summarized Louisville’s $3 billion food market. One program that has come from that report is Louisville Farm to Table, which works to bring Kentucky food into the lucrative city marketplace while it works to raise the capacity of Kentucky farmers.
Because Kentucky farmers could earn a substantial living growing tobacco – and did for generations – Kentucky ranks fifth in the number of farms (84,000) nationwide. But tobacco is declining. To keep farms productive and economically viable, Louisville Farm to Table brings farmers into the market while coordinating the buyers for local products.
Slow Food supporters should know that even if 30 or 50 or 100 percent of a city’s restaurants purchase local foods, they are not sufficient to support a local food economy. For farmers – especially produce farmers—to make money, large volumes of food must move efficiently. Likewise, consumers of local food usually expect that their actions will reduce carbon footprint and guard their food supply against high gas prices. If 84,000 farmers individually haul products from their farms to the metropolis, neither goal is achieved.
So Louisville Farm to Table works to increase the efficiency of the systems in an effort to make local food available to large-volume users. Jefferson County Public Schools, which feeds 60,000 lunches a day and 51,000 snacks a week in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, will serve local food the first week in May (in honor of the Kentucky Derby). Local beef farmers benefit not only from the sale, but by selling underutilized cuts. Local strawberry farmers sold large amounts of ephemeral fruit that had an early and robust season. Cornmeal for muffins and local frozen vegetables in stew contradicted the bromide that all local food is in season when school is not.
Most food is sold wholesale. If we are to move the needle on sustainable local food economies, everyone must come to expect local food in venues other than restaurants – at their wedding receptions, professional meetings, schools and universities, cocktail parties, and business lunches. They must expect to eat brisket instead of prime rib, bone-in drumsticks instead of boneless, skinless chicken breast, butternut squash instead of asparagus.
There is much work to do to make systems more efficient and more season-tolerant. Louisville Farm to Table is Metro Louisville’s effort to begin changing the food system to rely more on local. It is only with the help of Slow Food members and others like them that the work moves forward.