Earlier this year, we told you about a new program in Central Louisiana to better connect local restaurant owners with area farmers, in an attempt to get more locally grown foods on the menu. We are happy to report that program, part of our grant supported Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative, appears to be thriving! John Dean, a regional food systems planner with the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA), is leading this effort and he gives us this update…
By John Cotton Dean
Since May, restaurants across Central Louisiana have been enthusiastically supporting the region’s farmers. When CLEDA began the Fresh Central Farm-to-Restaurant Pilot program, the goal was to connect the growing network of local producers with the region’s restaurants.
Yet, the initial pilot program has developed into sustainable relationships between restaurants and growers: “We are so excited to have been connected with our local growers and- most importantly- our customers have continued to notice the difference,” says John Gunter, owner and chef of Alexandria’s Word of Mouth Café.
Not only have restaurants been able to provide their patrons with more fresh, local produce, the region’s farmers are able to sell more of their produce on a consistent basis. “Selling to restaurants has definitely created a more consistent market stream for us locally,” notes Jay Pearson, owner of Gray-Walk Farms in Rapides Parish.
Over a dozen restaurants and caterers throughout Central Louisiana include local food in their menus. Visit www.freshcentral.org to view a continually updated list of the businesses that support our region’s producers.
Dean’s article first appeared in his weekly produced regional food digest, All Things Local Food in Central Louisiana. Follow the initiative’s facebook page at facebook/cenlalocalfoods. Contact John Cotton Dean with specific questions at email@example.com or (318) 441-3424.