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HOW to find local/sustainable ingredients for a food business?

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6 replies to this topic

#1 mskerr

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:09 PM

As a disclaimer, this easily falls under the "absurdly stupid questions" category...

I would love to use local ingredients as much as possible from local farmers and artisans and such for a food business... what I have absolutely no idea about is HOW to go about doing this for a brand-new business, especially on a shoestring. Where do I start? Post ads on craiglist? Talk to people at the farmer's market and hope to dear god to negotiate a way cheaper bulk price? Are there hotspots for meeting local artisans/farmers/etc that I have no idea about? Meet them by chance by striking up a conversation in a bar in an agricultural area? (This almost worked for me before.) How do I go about getting local hogs or beef or the like - again, on a shoestring? Do a search online for local farms and just go talk to them? All of the above? I guess to amend my question a bit - is there a somewhat straightforward way to accomplish this or is it just a totally haphazard process involving lots of luck and chance? (Keeping in mind that I don't live in Portland or San Fran or somewhere that is an absolute mecca of local producers tripping into food truck-owner's laps or however it all goes down there.)

While I would ideally love to serve lovely food that's good for the people eating it, and the environment, and local farmers, and the community, etc, I also want to serve it at a very reasonable price - like a price that someone wouldn't have to be an environmentally-conscious foodie to be willing to pay. I want to make food that is affordable for as many people as possible. So far, the local, sustainable meat I've encountered has been very pricy, though of course, I don't know how wholesale prices affect it. (I heard the term "brokavore" lately, referring to how many small-scale artisinal producers are basically making nothing as it is, because it costs so much more to do things sustainably, so I sort of doubt they can sell things for any less than they already are.) And while I would like to grow a lot of my own veggies, this sort of thing seems to be in danger of being legislated into extinction here in the US and probably some other countries as well in the not-too-distant future. (As a disclaimer, I know that it's time consuming and can be quite costly to grow your own ingredients for a food business, a la Melissa Kelly, but I think it'd be pretty manageable to grow a few choice things that grow easily and abundantly.)

For reference, I would like to have a REALLY small food business - something I can mostly do on my own, or else with maybe one or two other people max. Food cart-style, with an omnivorous menu, with something for everyone but not specifically catering to any one crowd - not specifically serving "salads for the revolution!" or "pork-wrapped-pork-stuffed-pork" or whatever, though I'm certainly open to both of those things individually. I like to think a small business with a small overhead could be feasible for using sustainable ingredients because running costs are low to begin with and I don't need to pay prime big-city real estate or anything like that.

Anyway - I'd appreciate any info that could help lessen my complete and utter confusion. Cheers!

#2 Toliver

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:22 AM

Talk to people at the farmer's market ...

This was my first thought. I would seek out any organic farmers at the farmers market first. Then talk to the "regular" farmers. You should encounter produce brokers at the farmer's market, as well, if it's a typical farmer's market. As a consumer, I tend not to buy from the brokers because I want to support the local farmers and I have no idea where the broker is sourcing his produce (it could be from a couple counties up state for all I know). However, you, being a restaurant owner, may find their prices better. It's up to you. Good luck.

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Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
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#3 Lisa Shock

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 12:45 AM

I'd try asking other chefs, especially those whose restaurants advertise that the offer locally produced foods. See if you can attend a local ACF meeting and ask the chefs there, someone is bound to know. If there's a culinary school nearby, try attending an open house and asking there. -Schools like to have extracurricular activities that involve local farmers, and they may also have required students to write a paper on local foods, requiring students to get out and find these growers.

#4 HungryC

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:01 AM

Start with your county's agricultural extension service.....the cooperative extension service agriculture agents are your best pipeline to farmers or ranchers. All counties in the USA have at extension agents. Some more ag-oriented places also have USDA agents whose sole job is economic development for farm/fisheries. Find your local cooperative extension service agent here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/
Your tax dollars support a huge apparatus related to agriculture...take advantage of it.

#5 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 08:17 AM

In addition to the suggestions above, search http://www.localharvest.org


Edited by DiggingDogFarm, 09 February 2013 - 08:18 AM.

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist and contrarian who questions everything!

#6 rlped

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:14 PM

in the northwest checkout foodhub.org
Your local farmers market might have a vendor list on their website.
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#7 teagal

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:29 AM

Do you have a feed store in the town you are? Or a health food store? Not only do these places usually have bulletin boards, but would probably know the people you need to talk to. Also agree about the extension office.
Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman