The farm-to-table movement that helped Asheville earn its status as a "Foodtopia" continues to grow as more restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets offer meats, vegetables, fruits and other foods that were locally grown and produced. This expansion of farm-fresh food has been embraced by residents and visitors who receive the benefit of eating the freshest foods they can find, while also helping the local economy.
Purchases of such locally produced items as trout caviar, hand-picked blueberries, heirloom apples, and artisan breads and cheeses support both the establishment where the transaction occurs and the farms located on the outskirts of town.
Yes, this Southern community has joined together in a commitment to buy local whenever possible, an allegiance made stronger by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. The organization is devoted to honoring farming traditions while nurturing the area’s agricultural future. For example, farm partners in ASAP’s Appalachian Grown certification program proudly display the logo alerting customers they support the area’s culture, land and economy.
“In Asheville, locals and visitors alike seek out Appalachian Grown businesses to support, make weekly visits to their neighborhood tailgate market, purchase Community Supported Agriculture shares, and take opportunities to meet and interact with their farmers,” says Maggie Cramer, communications manager at ASAP.
“That means Ashevillians can put a face with their food. They can ask questions of farmers about their land and about their growing practices and methods, leading to a more transparent food system, one that strengthens the local economy, boosts farm profitability, increases sustainable production practices and improves individual and public health.”
Restaurants Go Green
Restaurants all over the city are jumping on board with this concept, and ASAP even provides a guide for chefs with farm contacts and information about local products they can purchase.
“Green restaurants that source ingredients from local farms are supplying their customers with the freshest food possible,” Cramer says. “They’re also giving diners the opportunity to eat with the seasons and experience the unique flavors of our area.”
For example, take Plant, a vegan restaurant, where the menu revolves around made-from-scratch food using only ingredients “from the earth,” that are seasonal, local and organic (don’t miss the raw enchilada!). Or The Market Place, a downtown restaurant specializing in handcrafted cuisine made from organic ingredients sourced within a 100-mile radius of Asheville. Or Early Girl Eatery, which buys from 20 local farms, 10 local distributors (everything down to water and salt) and two local markets. The list goes on and on.
“Asheville restaurants are also using renewable energy, recyclable and compostable materials, recycling their cooking oils, and much more,” Cramer adds.
Beyond the Table
Additionally, area restaurants are supportive of the Growing Minds Farm to School Program, where they visit classrooms and teach children how to cook with fresh local food, develop school gardens, host farm field trips and get local food onto cafeteria menus, Cramer says.
One such restaurant is Laurey's Gourmet Comfort Food, a full-service catering company in downtown Asheville and one of the Appalachian Grown partner restaurants. Not only is a lot of Laurey's menu sourced seasonally from local farms, but its chefs also make regular trips across the street to the weekly tailgate market.
In addition, Laurey's hosts local dinners and events where diners can meet their farmers and connect with the source of their food. Laurey’s sources many of its vegetables from another AG partner, Gladheart Farms, a certified organic vegetable farm using biofuel to power its greenhouse and farm equipment.
Bottom line: “Visitors will notice solar panels and innovations in waste reduction, but what they’ll remember is the food,” says Dodie Stephens, senior communications manager at the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Menus here are inspired by what’s local, organic and in-season; our chefs forage, they farm and they even keep their own bees. No matter how creative or lofty the menu, respect for the land and mountain food traditions is a common thread in Asheville restaurants.”