Did you know that according to National Restaurant Association, 7 out of 10 consumers surveyed said they are more likely to visit a restaurant offering locally produced items and 6 out of 10 said inclusion of local foods on the menu is a key attribute when selecting a restaurant to dine out at? Not only are they looking for locally produced food but they are willing to pay more for it! 95% of single urban households reported a willingness to pay more for locally grown foods.
So why aren’t local foods on every menu?
Despite these numbers, many farmers and restaurants still struggle to overcome the barriers of local food production or purchasing on the wholesale level. Farmers may struggle to produce the quantity and consistency demanded by restaurants and restaurants may view purchasing locally as less convenient or most costly. Additionally, most distribution companies don’t deliver locally grown produce, making one-on-one relationships a key factor in enabling local farmers to sell their produce, meat, cheese, eggs and other products to area restaurants. Illinois Stewardship Alliance, hosts of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois Chapter, wants to help farmers and restaurants overcome these challenges, putting wholesome local food on every plate and more money back into local economies. The organization will be hosting four Chef-Farmer Mixers in central Illinois throughout the month of March. The Mixers will bring together local chefs, restaurant owners, and farmers, allowing them to network and create new partnerships, as well as providing educational training on ways that each party can adapt to the challenges of purchasing and selling local produce.
“Using locally grown and produced foods puts dollars in the pockets of local farmers and often provides chefs with the freshest product and unique varieties making it a win-win for both parties” said Lindsay Record, Program Director at Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
The dates and times of the events are as follows:
March 2, 5- 8 p.m. - Peoria, Illinois Central College
March 9, 3 - 6 p.m. - Champaign-Urbana, Urbana Civic Center
March 16, 3 - 6 p.m. - Bloomington-Normal, Epiphany Farms Restaurant
March 23, 3-6 p.m - Springfield, Lincoln Land Community College
Participants will have the opportunity to attend one of two specially designed workshops. The MarketReady Training for Farmers, presented by University of Illinois Extension Small Farms and Local Food System Educators (LFSSF), will address the market development risks and relationships small farmers must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with restaurants, retailers, and wholesale buyers. The Socially Responsible Chef with the Fiscally Responsible Bottom Line, presented by chef Greg Christian of Beyond Green Partners, aims to educate food service providers on how to implement sustainable practices, monitor waste, source locally, and market effectively in order to maximize profits. Learn more about the workshops here. Additionally, a one-hour networking session will provide farmers and chefs with ample time to explore new partnerships and create one-on-one relationships. Local appetizers and wine will be provided.
Registration is FREE, but you must register to attend. REGISTER ONLINE HERE or CALL 217-528-1563
Missed this year's mixers? Sign up for the and stay up-to-date on upcoming Mixers for 2016