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Restaurants Coordinate with Community Gardens for Local Ingredients

Here’s a recent report from the National Restaurant Association :  restaurants are now working hand in hand with community gardens, allowing the collective farms to show their chefs in their chef coats various ways to grow, trade or purchase fresh produce – tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, beans and other freshly-picked ingredients. Community gardens are pieces of land that are gardened collectively by a group of people in an urban, suburban or rural setting.

Those that do not have their own garden are looking at nearby plots to grow what they can.  Others are arranging that they use the harvest of their neighbor’s gardens.  “If you’ve ever tried growing zucchini, you realize you can’t give every single one of them away,” said Laura David, American Community Gardening Association’s project manager. “Now, restaurants are actually saying, ‘give it to us, and we’ll pay you for it.’”

A common practice that developed among gardeners is secondary swapping — those who have too much zucchini can swap their extras with another gardener’s excess of beans.

Restaurants are now cutting in on these exchanges.  The Refinery dining place in Tampa, Florida has been trading their vegetable scraps with a nearby community garden so they can use it as compost, and in return, they get some of their harvested products.

Another practice is Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA), where farms pre-sell (before they start planting) portions of their future harvests to residents in their area. The shareholders get their portions when crops come into season.

Big Bowl restaurant had this concept in mind when they bought and secured some rights to Heritage Prairie Farms’ outputs.  The farmland in western Illinois is now planted with heirloom seeds that Big Bowl has specified.  The Asian chain also pays employees to assist in farming the plot.   “We fancy seeing our servers, in their smart restaurant uniforms, tell our customers, ‘that cauliflower you had today? I picked that myself this morning,” says Laura Yee, the restaurant’s spokeswoman.

This goes well with American consumers’ preference to support locally produced food.  Community gardens and the local food movement are all for sustainability, one in their goal to alleviate the effects of climate change.  Locally grown food diminishes a community’s reliance on fossil fuels for transporting food ingredients from far agricultural areas, as well as reducing the usage of the gas in industrial machines.

Both movements also share the goal of providing healthy food to society, as eating local allows consumers to know and have a certain degree of control as to where their food came from and how it was produced.  Community gardens also improve the health of its gardeners as a venue of physical exercise.

Eating local has been a rising trend the past years, giving rise to locavores, people who take notice where their food comes from and are committed to eating local food as much as possible.  They are conscious in how to help the environment, protect their health and how to support their community.