Taking a step back from the accomplishments of Kimberly Colett at Olive, an urban dive, makes me wonder how I might get to a place like this myself. I know more than most about what’s in season, and what local producer has the best: that’s one of the reasons I started this writing gig. But get a divorce from the supermarket? How would I manage my budget that way?
Well, as Kerry Brown, editor of Telephone, pointed out, the knowledge is key, and we expect to have a great summary of suppliers for publication in the magazine in March. However, there’s a time, and money investment, as well.
Kimberley does this a couple of ways. She has a great staff (Jenna, Tyler, Betsey, Lee Anne, and Sandy all take charge of different categories for her). She also has the courage to pay the 20-30% more it takes, over the prices she says she would pay if she consolidated her orders to one of the large supply houses, the supermarket for the food service industry.
Developing the kind of staff Kimberly has can only be a challenge for restaurateurs, and, as good businesspeople, they want to remain competitive on pricing. Some of the regional supply houses have addressed this need by following the model of a food hub.
Small and medium farmers may have enough produce to supply restaurants and other businesses, but they often don’t have proper storage, or trucks available to get it there. According to the USDA, food hubs help farmers by combining production, aggregation, distribution, and marketing services under one roof. Supply houses are recognizing the increased demand for local food, and responding.
“Customers want local,” Erv Pavlofsky, principal of business development for ProduceOne, in Dayton, told The Packer. “It’s a hot trend, and it’s not going away.” ProduceOne promotes local produce through its Buy Local, Buy Fresh website, launched in 2010. By partnering with Cleveland’s Premier Produce Co. Ltd., ProduceOne will continue to develop its local program, Pavlofsky said. Kimberly Collett reports that she uses Pic’s Produce, which has their own greenhouse, and uses 12 large Ohio growers, to supply anything that she does not purchase locally.
There will always be those striving to be even more local. The National Restaurant Association reported that 18% of its survey participants said that they expected the hottest operational trend in 2012 to be restaurants having their own gardens. Everyone will participate to the degree they can.
Don’t forget Green Umbrell’s local food pledge! Click here.