Writer Kristen Wile wrote a series of articles delving into the local food movement for Charlotte magazine. In the first article, “Is Local Food Dead?,” she says the word “local” is overused, to the point that many chefs avoid using it. So American Farm Marketer asked her about her views on if local food and farms, and if she thinks that the farm-to-table movement is over.
Q: In your article, you focus more on what “local” means to chefs than you do exploring if the local food movement is over. So I’m curious, do you think local food is a fad that will fade soon?
A: I don’t think the desire for local food is a fad that will fade soon. I think people are beginning to realize there is a difference in taste and flavor between something that’s been grown for chefs and something grown for mass production and shelf life. Flavors are much more vibrant. That said, local food right now is a luxury for those who can afford it. Hopefully, we can find a way that local food isn’t a fad, but becomes the norm for everybody. There are a lot of people in this country who need to eat, and the number of farmers and available land are on the decline. Hopefully, this trend will help slow down that decline.
Q: There have been a few articles lately about restaurants making false claims of using locally sourced ingredients, including your own. What do you think the impact of these articles will be on diners?
A: It’s difficult to say, because we can’t barge into kitchens and demand to see what’s in the fridges and walk-ins. We have to trust what the restaurants are saying is the truth. As more diners become aware this is happening, though, I hope more people ask questions about sourcing and where things are coming from. And I hope restaurants see that if you fake it, people will know.
A: I think those issues are there, but they are filtered through chefs. In my experience, chefs that are sourcing locally care intensely about having great ingredients to work with. They believe that the local ingredients are superior, at least when it comes to produce. If you’re getting a local tomato that is the kind being bred for holding up to shipping, you lose that quality. So it’s partially the physical location, and partially growing heirloom varieties.
Q: Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with local growers?
A: Thank you for what you do! And stick up for yourself – if you see your name at a restaurant that you’re not supplying, reach out and fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, reach out to your local food writer!