Delicious Living Blog

Chef-recommended tips on buying local food

Andrew Garrison, executive chef at the Gleneden Beach, Oregon-based restaurant Samphire, gives us the local food lowdown.

Alice Waters, owner of the sustainable Berkeley-based restaurant Chez Panisse once told a PBS reporter why she felt compelled to devote her life to good, healthy food: “I came to all the realizations about sustainability and biodiversity because I fell in love with the way food tastes. That was it. And because I was looking for that taste I feel at the doorsteps of the organic, local, sustainable farmers, dairy people and fisherman.” In other words, ingredient integrity is the secret sauce to delicious eating, not necessarily, well, the secret sauce.

Buying local food isn’t just for chefs of legendary restaurants. It’s a key way you—yes, you!—can improve the ingredients you cook with at home to better appreciate what you eat. Local sourcing benefits your community and the environment, as you’ll sidestep the carbon-intensive shipping costs typical of most conventional produce. Plus, most small-scale, local farmers are stewards of the land, using sustainable practices, such as organic methods.

Depending on where you live, however, sourcing local food can be challenging. Where can you find local food? We reached out to Andrew Garrison, executive chef at Samphire, a restaurant at the Gleneden Beach, Oregon-based Salishan Spa and Golf Resort to get answers. Garrison is a passionate proponent of sourcing fish, cheese and produce for his restaurant in Oregon, and spends a lot of time figuring out how to cook with ingredients as close to Gleneden Beach as possible. Use the following tips in your home kitchen to go local.  

How do you find local food if you don’t live near any farming communities?

Andrew Garrison: Ironically, living in or near a major metro area can be a big benefit. Most cities have farmer’s markets that feature all types of vendors—from community gardens to artisan cheeses and other really niche products. These are the best places to find locally sourced goods. You’re able to sample a wide variety of products and get some face-time with the people producing them. Many farms may offer CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes that you can join, giving you deliveries of their produce at intervals. Meat producers do this as well.

It’s also fun to gather some friends and go in on a hog or a half-steer, especially during barbecue season when you can turn it into a day-long feast! Freeze what you don’t cook to keep for months.

In what ways can home cooks learn about local producers that don’t exhibit at farmer’s markets?

AG: Use the restaurants in your area as a roadmap. As we’ve been redesigning the menus here at Salishan, I’ve been using the menus of restaurants that I respect in the area as a guide for seeking out quality fresh-off-the-farm products. If a restaurant markets themselves as farm-to-table but doesn’t list their suppliers, you can always call (during off-peak hours!) and ask for suggestions on growers and producers.

How can you source local food if you live in a very rural area?

AG: The best way to source locally as an individual is to grow it yourself. So many restaurants that have the means are starting up their own culinary gardens of varying scope, too. That’s definitely something [Samphire] plans on doing in the near future. At home, I tend three 5-by-8 garden beds in my backyard that I plant every spring and end up yielding more produce than I know what to do with.

There are a lot of online resources for getting a simple garden started, and if you want to go more in-depth, contact your local Master Gardeners’ Association. They’re a great resource for starter plants in the spring, as well. If you don’t have room for a garden on your property, look for a community garden in your neighborhood. If it doesn’t exist, band together with some neighbors and find a plot of land that could hold one! Community gardens are a great way to come together with your neighbors, share crops and celebrate good food.


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