By Elyse Wood, Boulder County Farmers Markets
The food service world can be a house of cards. It brings long hours, from ordering and inventory, through recipe creation, cleaning up and shutting down each night. If it’s a new smaller operation, it includes business development and marketing. Setting one more task on the stack might just make the cards fall flat, but emphasizing local ingredients doesn’t need to topple the deck. We sat down with General Manager and Chef Matt Collier at our partner restaurant, Seeds Library Café, to talk about the benefits of local sourcing.
Seeds commits to 70 percent local purchasing, including fresh produce and local prepackaged products like desserts and snacks. Local in this case is defined as local as possible, but specifically Colorado grown and produced. The goal: Make local the rule, not the exception. It is currently hitting that percentage and then some, at roughly 90 percent.
For Matt, his main reasons for sourcing local are simple. First, he wants to showcase the farmers’ hard work and craft. In the last 15 years he’s seen a marked improvement in agriculture practices in Boulder County. The product just tastes better, he says, and featuring these ingredients is a way to pay true tribute to these farmers. He also wants to educate and empower the consumer, not only by highlighting taste, but by showing the carbon footprint of imported food choices vs. local.
Having worked in the Boulder restaurant community for years, most recently Bradford Heap Restaurants, he understands local sourcing can present obstacles — and more importantly benefits — for restaurants large and small.
Obstacle: Cooking in the off-season takes a lot of planning and preserving. Similarly, working within the boundaries of what you want to cook vs. what’s available can be unattractive if you don’t want to roll with the punches.
Benefit: Using local provides an opportunity to stay creative and innovative in your craft.
Obstacle: Skipping the ease factor of one-stop shop ordering — chefs are often used to ordering from one distributor and calling it a day.
Benefit: Building relationships with farmers takes a little more time and effort, but you will find the farms that work well with you. Suddenly, there’s a story about your meal — a place and face to the product. If you can guarantee the purchase, some farmers are even willing to grow specialty ingredients for you.
In the near future, Matt plans to host dinners, taking popular meals and substituting locally grown Colorado goods for unseasonal products, while discussing the gas and mileage saved by those small changes.
Matt does notice a change in customers, no matter how small. “The customers who are really excited about supporting local are really engaged and make it known.”