Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Localecopia Meet and Greet Thursday at The Breakers – Calling All Chefs, Local Food Producers!

November 16th, 2011 · 4 Comments

We keep harping to eat local – it’s a way to reduce the carbon footprint left by farmers in Iowa shipping corn to Florida and vice-versa. Must be good business for the corporate farmers – but detrimental for the planet. Think packaging, shipping, handling and the time involved from farm to table – want to pay for a 2-week-old beet that’s been shipped from a farm in Nebraska over land, guzzling gas along the way, and stored until the produce buyer releases it from its warehouse cooler? The cost may have been 20 cents a pound for the farmer, but by the time you buy it, it’s four times that.

Welcome, then, Localecopia – whose mission is to get the local chefs to buy from local farmers and ranchers and fishermen. Its ideal is to support the local economy, educate about environmental awareness, help form sustainable practices and create a new business model for growers and end consumers so everyone benefits.

Meet and Greet brings chefs together with growers, others

The Meet and Greet Thursday at The Breakers aims to introduce local chefs with a host of local growers, ranchers, and food producers – to sample their products and support the businesses close to home. Fresher, safer products are available – but smaller farmers don’t always have a way to get the word out about their products. Localecopia seeks to remedy this, at least on a local level.

Working with them on marketing is the MarketMaker – a free resource and service of the Florida Cooperative Extension service. It’s a list of farms registered in the program – with access open to all. There will be a demo of this at the Meet and Greet.

In recent years, Palmetto Creek pork from a ranch around Sebring has given South Florida chefs a new pork to use that’s not only local, but natural. Produce growers like Swank Farms and Green Cay Farms in Palm Beach County have made inroads into restaurants and are now growing specific vegetables or herbs for some chefs.

Whitewater clams from the Indian River lagoon, Deep Creek grassfed beef, Golden Crab from the Titusville area and several other products have been introduced to chefs throughout the area.

Variety of products featured

Parthenais cattle, an heirloom breed used at Florida's Arrowhead Ranch

At the Meet and Greet tomorrow, chefs and restaurateurs and other food buyers can sample ice cream or tropical fruit, kosher tortillas, taste Florida beef, or beef jerky. Samples of fresh tortillas are on hand as well. It’s as about education, too: Learning why grass-fed beef is so nutritious, or what a longan is and how to use it.

Dried mango slices from Leechango in Loxahatchee

These vendors and others are set to display their foods and products and research: Whole Foods Market, University of Florida / IFAS, Farming Systems Research, A & J Beef Jerky, Localecopia Marketplace, Coconut King Miami Beach, GMG Tropical Fruits, Ice Cream Club, LeeChango Farms, Global Organics, Old School Bread Co., Wrap Ole, Short On Thyme, Seeds of Hope Community Garden, QV Farms, Sprouts, DIG Restaurant, Arrowhead Beef, Farmer Jay, GrowingSynergy and others.

The Breakers’ green example

The Breakers is the natural place to hold this – the resort has been a LEED-certified model for several years, and grows its own vegetables and herbs. It has a greenmarket for its workers on site and buys local whenever possible.

It was the executive chef, Anthony Sicignano, who wondered why he couldn’t get mangoes from produce growers that were as good as his from his own backyard to use at The Breakers that spurred Geoff Sagrans to start focusing on local growers. Sagrans is the assistant director of materials management for the Resort.

He expanded his search and got involved with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, which provided resources for finding local and Florida produced quality foods.

Localecopia was formed in 2008 and continues to grow, expanding the lists of producers and buyers – and connecting the two.

Localecopia Meet and Greet

  • The Breakers, 1 S. County Road, Palm Beach
  • Thursday, Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m.
  • Event is free, but an RSVP is requested: info@localecopia.org
  • 561-655-6611 (The Breakers); www.localecopia.org

Tags: Food People · The Eat Beat: Restaurant News · Today in the World of Food · What's Happening Here

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