A flavorful partnership

As restaurateurs seek out locally grown supplies, growers step up to meet their needs

What difference does it make whether a restaurant uses locally grown produce or buys it from a wholesaler who’s trucked it in from, say, the Imperial Valley or Mexico? From the customer’s standpoint, there’s a one-word answer to the question: flavor.

There are many other good reasons for patronizing restaurants that buy their meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit and other food supplies from local producers. For one, it keeps money circulating locally—money that eventually will circle back to the customer in one way or another. Also, it lessens the amount of trucking required, saving on fuel and limiting greenhouse gases.

It’s also comforting to know that restaurants are using organic produce grown in rich soil without the use of pesticides. The less we rely on poisons to grow our food, the better for everyone, including wildlife.

But ultimately the real difference is in taste. As anyone who has eaten a fresh backyard tomato or peach knows, homegrown has more flavor. That is true, too, of meats and dairy goods produced on small, local farms.

In this issue of our monthly tab celebrating local businesses and the “Buy local” movement, we focus on the remarkable synergy between local restaurateurs who have made the decision to buy their food supplies locally and the small-scale farmers who are serving them.

It’s important to understand what this involves. For the restaurateur, it means giving up the ease of having a produce truck deliver goods to the back door and instead spending hours each week scouring farmers’ markets for the fresh food on offer. And it may mean dealing with a large number of local providers instead of just a few big producers.

For the growers, it means intensive farming involving a great deal of hand work on small plots and the willingness to stay small.

As our stories suggest, chefs who commit to buying local are hugely serious about food. They want our dining experience to be as good as it possibly can be, and they’re willing to do what it takes to make that happen. We salute them, and the growers and farmers who are partnering with them.