Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Hot Topic – Gro-ACT – Restaurant Rating February 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:04 am
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There have been several articles written about the survey by the Grower’s Alliance of Central Texas (Gro-ACT), ranking area restaurants by their receipts from a group of local farms.

My initial reaction was positive, thinking this would be a good resource for folks who don’t know where to dine locally, or sustainably.   I was pleased to see some of  my favorite places on the list.  That day, I ran in to the chefs from The Steeping Room at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.  They were on their way to the Triangle Farmer’s Market, where I see them weekly buying for their restaurant.  They aren’t on the list.  So I looked at the list of alliance members, and found it to be lacking, for whatever reason, of  many of the places chefs are getting their food.  That made me sad for the restaurants I know are fighting the good fight, that got left off this list, or ranked lower than they should have been.

My friend Kristi, makes lots of great points here:

It has been a personal journey of mine to seek out local sources for the vast majority of my food.  I look for restaurants that source locally, but not just produce – I look for Richardson Farms beef and pork, Thunderheart Bison, Bastrop Cattle Beef, Smith and Smith Farms Chicken, and San Miguel Seafood (just to mention a few) on area menus.  The fact that I can order a Kocurek Family Charcuterie plate at Congress in the Austonian, is important to me.  Pure Luck Dairy, Full Quiver Cheese and CKC Cheese appear on area menus as well, and I want to support these local Dairy Farms.   I don’t think they should have to be part of an alliance, to garner my support or be deemed local.  (In response to Kristi’s blog post, members of the alliance clarified that they had reached out to many of the farms, and they had not responded.)

I very much appreciate the attempt to tackle the “local-washing” and “green-washing” by area restaurants in their efforts to attract the “Eat Local” crowd.   I got mad recently at a display card on a restaurant touting their local menu, that said “Our beef is fed a 100% Vegetarian Diet”.  Corn is a vegetable, last time I looked.   I just wish  the results of the survey had been reported differently, with no rankings, and that it would have been presented in a way so that the reading public would understand that the List was of restaurants shopping at the farms in the alliance, rather than the  list of restaurants shopping locally, which is how it appears to me.    I am happy to see a list of restaurants that buy from certain local farms, I always check Boggy Creek’s website to see who is shopping there.   Two of my favorite restaurants in town Fino and Asti contract with local farmer, Harley Clark of Clark Farms for their produce and from my understanding, he does not sell to the general public.  They were not ranked very high on the list, although they really make a concerted effort to source locally, and the owners are involved in the local food community in a big way.

This has made me think about how I define local as well.  I order Lowell Farms Organic Rice online, and it is grown near the coast which is over the 150 mile mark.  I am in a constant quest for a source of organic dried beans, as I have found none locally.   I’m placing an order from Rancho Gordo for organic beans soon, and feel good about that decision, in spite of the fact that they aren’t even in Texas.  Some of my favorite raw milk cheese comes from Kemp Texas, via the Farmer’s Market.  Full Quiver makes the more than 150 mile trip to Austin every Saturday, and I am thankful for that and want to wholeheartedly support them.

What’s my point?  I’m not even sure.   I want to support every restaurant that sources locally, whether they use a middle man or not.  I want to support all of our local farms and celebrate this movement that has changed my life for the better.  The more we seek out local food and spread the word about what beautiful local produce,  beef, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, charcuterie and dairy we have right in and around Central Texas, the more people will seek it out, and that will benefit all of the farms, ranches and producers.  I know this personally to be true – I see the shining faces of 3 ladies to whom I gave a tour of the farmer’s market, at the market every single Saturday now, and it makes me happy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


See the Sustainable Food Center’s Letter to the Statesman Editor regarding this topic:


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