Locally Sourced Food Movement Keeps Growing

By Jennie Bradford Curlee on May 5, 2014 at 6:00 am EST
Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen in downtown Tupelo, MS.

A diverse mix of tastes, cultures and experiences make up the culinary landscape of Tupelo/Lee County. Today, more than ever, restaurants in this community are making a commitment to buy locally sourced food. With new options for indigenous fruits, vegetables, meats and more, the economic benefits of these homegrown feasts are making as big an impact as the health benefits.

Break the Chain, Eat Local

Mitchell McCamey and Seth Copeland understand the importance of buying fresh, local food. The pair owns the Neon Pig, Tupelo’s favorite old-school butcher shop and food bar. The Neon Pig house-cures its meats and uses fresh, local produce in its menu, while also selling these items in its grocery section. Menu items include fruits and vegetables grown by Native Son Farm in Tupelo, dairy products by Brown Family Dairy in Oxford, St Bethany Fresh tomatoes grown in Pontotoc and My Brother’s Cup coffee from Shannon.

McCamey and Copeland are also the owners of Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen (KOK) downtown, where the menu is based on the fresh ingredients they are able to procure. Crisp salads, sandwiches, hand-cut steaks and wood-fire grilled pizzas are mainstays on the KOK menu, where each plate prepared in the kitchen is a masterpiece created from the bountiful harvest of Northeast Mississippi.

Tupelo Farmers’ Market

The Tupelo Farmers’ Market is a great resource for area restaurants and residents to buy locally grown ingredients. Its season begins each May with the Feast for the Farmers’ fundraiser, where local restaurants prepare a meal with the fresh ingredients grown by the farmers who sell at the market. Designated a Mississippi Certified Farmers’ Market by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, it is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from May until October in downtown Tupelo.

"The Farmers' Market has really created a connection between our restaurant chefs and our local farmers,” says Craig Helmuth, co-manager of the Tupelo Farmers' Market, which is run by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. “Typically, we will see chefs at the market buying for their personal kitchens but also creating professional relationships with the farmers at the same time. The Farmers' Market opens a door for chefs and farmers to carry on their business every day of the week."

It’s a Food Truck, Y'all

Curt McLellan has developed these professional relationships with the farmers at the market and utilizes produce from the Tupelo Farmers’ Market in his restaurant, Local MOBILE, Tupelo’s first food truck.

“Number one, the more you buy local, the more money stays in Tupelo,” McLellan says. “I want to spend my money in Tupelo, so the more I am able to shop locally for my business, that much more stays here at home.”

Restaurants in Tupelo/Lee County that are leading the charge in offering locally sourced food are doing much more than providing a scrumptious meal. The economic impact of buying local means that funds stay in circulation in Tupelo/Lee County. These restaurants are stimulating the local economy one vegetable at a time.

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