Fresh Produce, Fresh Ideas 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 4:23:26 PM

Local foods are sweeping the nation and Southwestern PA and Western MD are getting on board. This recent article from the New York Times describes Pittsburgh's growing local foods restaurant scene. Local foods aren't just relevant in Pittsburgh or other cities, or only for high-end gourmet dining. In fact, they're maybe even more relevant given the nature of rural areas and their links to farming.  

Greens abundant

A member of the SCA Trail Town Outreach Corps takes full advantage of the local farmers markets.

All along the Great Allegheny Passage businesses and consumers are recognizing the benefits of eating local. You often get healthier, fresher produce and less cost (environmental and monetary) in transportation. Working with local farmers to source products like milk, cheese, meat, vegetables, and fruits can also help improve the local economy by keeping more money in the region.

Several trail businesses have embraced local foods, incorporating them into their meals for guests or even building a business model based on the principle of local foods. Many of them are members of the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network that works to support and promote trail businesses in their efforts to become more sustainable. However, there is still a gap in restaurants, B&Bs and other businesses offering local foods along the trail. We prefer to see this as an opportunity! There may be potential to open a restaurant whose main focus is on farm-to-table meals. Or to promote your B&B as one of the few serving a locally sourced breakfast (or wine, for that matter). Also consider agri-tourism where visitors come to participate in the process of growing and/or harvesting their own food; this could make a great trip package if you partnered with a local farm or winery to create a full experience for trail users and visitors. Many visitors to the Trail Towns are looking for a meal that is fresh and local, and they're often willing to pay more for it.

If you're interested in learning more about local foods, incorporating them into your business, connecting with providers, or just sampling some delicious offerings from local vendors head to the Farm to Table Pittsburgh conference later this month. It's a great event that features a variety of vendors, demonstrations and workshops by health experts, chefs, and farmers, plus a to-die-for food tasting. The conference is being held Friday & Saturday, March 25 & 26 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. See the conference website for more details and to buy tickets.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried incorporating local foods into your business? Have you found particular challenges or rewards? Is there a way we could help you get more local foods in your business? Let us know by commenting below!

Photo by the Trail Town Outreach Corps.

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