Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Local produce and organic farms weren’t buzzwords in 1992 when Susan Moses opened 212 Market Restaurant, but the Chattanooga restaurateur said she was committed to providing high-quality natural ingredients from the start.
Twenty years later, the restaurant continues that tradition and will participate in the second Harvested Here Week, a weeklong program where Chattanooga restaurants create special menus highlighting local ingredients.
“For us every week is Harvested Here week,” said Moses. “We are so thrilled that Gaining Ground has taken it more mainstream.”
The event May 14-20 will include 20 local restaurants. An inaugural Harvested Here Week last October was immensely successful, which is one of the reasons Gaining Ground officials decided to repeat the program this spring and hope to make it a biannual event, said Gaining Ground program coordinator Lacie Stone.
“We were pleasantly surprised and thrilled at the amount of positive comments from restaurants, farmers and of course the community,” she said of the inaugural event. “It’s really fun and it’s a great way to shine a light on local food in a way that also gets the community involved.”
But the event is more than just a week of special menus, according to Stone. Consuming locally grown food has considerable health and economic benefits along with tasting better, she said.
“Food purchased in Chattanooga area grocery stores travels 1,500 miles on average, and studies have shown that produce begins to lose valuable nutrients the minute it is picked from the plant,” said Stone. “So when it’s grown locally, you can be assured that it was picked at the peak of its nutrient content.”
A little bit of local eating can go a long way, whether it’s one meal a week or several items purchased from a farmers market, she said.
“In fact, if we all ate one meal a week using locally grown food that would mean about $100 million annually that stays in our community,” said Stone. “Small farms purchase most of their labor, materials and equipment locally, so over 75 percent of your food dollars recirculate in the community, creating jobs and keeping our local economy strong.”
Stone said some of the best ways to support locally grown food are to shop at farmers markets, ask the servers at your favorite restaurants which menu items are sourced locally and consider purchasing a community supported agriculture farm share.
There is no ticket price to participate in Harvested Here, but diners are encouraged to contact participating restaurants for reservations or menu details.
For more information, visit www.growchattanooga.org.