Georgia Organics, which works to make organic and locally sourced food available to all Georgia residents, is bringing local farmers and chefs together through its new Farm to Restaurant campaign. As part of the Farm to Restaurant Campaign, Georgia Organics hopes to sponsor events such as educational workshops, networking opportunities, field trips for chefs to visit Georgia farms and an annual awards ceremony and fundraising event.
The campaign is three-fold and involves farmers, chefs, and restaurant goers. “The goal of the Farm to Restaurant Campaign is to give farmers from around the state increased access to restaurants as a market and revenue stream,” says Lauren Cox, organic procurement coordinator for Georgia Organics. “Restaurants have been on the forefront of a return to local purchasing and seasonal eating. They have the power to influence how people eat, whether they are dining out or cooking at home. There is a group of committed chefs in Atlanta that have worked to increase awareness of this type of eating over the years, now is the time to highlight that work and grow the movement to support Georgia farmers.”
Twenty farmers applied and were selected for the inaugural campaign, including goat and rabbit producers, the first Certified Organic beef producer in Georgia and a Certified Organic grain producer. Five of these farms are involved in cooperatives, seven are USDA Certified Organic and many currently sell to Atlanta-area farmers markets. For the duration of 2019, Georgia Organics will support them with business training, field management, pricing and communication strategies, as well as Organic Certification cost share.
When asked why he was interested in participating in the Farm to Restaurant Campaign, Chris Edwards of Mayflor Farms in Stockbridge, Georgia, states, “People are willing to go out and spend $15 or more on a plate of food. I’m trying to get a piece of that plate. To be honest, there are real barriers to accessing the restaurant market, and it’s understanding the root causes that will help us to overcome them.”
Georgia Organics also wants to highlight the restaurants that are doing the good work of purchasing sustainably, providing transparency in sourcing for consumers and helping the local food economy. Presently, there are 15 metro-Atlanta restaurants involved in the campaign including Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Eat Me Speak Me (soon to be Little Bear), Miller Union, BoccaLupo, Farm Burger, Kimball House, Root Baking Co., No. 246, Gunshow, Murphy’s, One Eared Stag, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, Adalina, Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar and Seed Kitchen and Bar.
“At the Wrecking Bar Brewpub, we have always tried to source locally and organically whenever possible. First and foremost, it’s nice to see what that commitment looks like on paper and when it’s quantified compared to our peers,” says Stevenson Rosslow, owner and general manager of Wrecking Bar Brewpub and member of the campaign’s Chef Advisory Board.
As part of the campaign, Georgia Organics recently hosted a speed-dating-style mixer at Wrecking Bar Brewpub, where farms enrolled in the campaign mingled with chefs who are either already buying local and in-state Certified Organic or are interested in doing so.
The campaign is slated to launch this summer with Georgia Organics awarding in-store decals to participating restaurants who meet a minimum baseline of 5 percent local purchasing. The decals showcase each establishment’s verified commitment to spending a certain percentage of its total food budget on locally sourced foods in addition to a separate percentage that’s allocated to Georgia products that are Certified Organic under the USDA. For the Farm to Restaurant campaign, local is defined as within the state of Georgia.
The tiered decals will be based on sourcing metrics from a restaurant’s total food budget and will be given out once a year. Restaurants can receive the baseline entry decal immediately once they begin participating in the program:
Gold Tier: 5% Certified Organic (purchased in state) + 20% local
Silver Tier: 3% Certified Organic (purchased in state) + 20% local
Bronze Tier: 1% Certified Organic (purchased in state) + 10% local
Partner Tier: 5% Local
“Once a year, we’ll be recognizing everyone who’s involved in the campaign,” says Cox. “We want to acknowledge people who are doing what they can within their business models, because every bit counts. We’ll also be featuring people who are going above and beyond, whether it’s the chef who participated in the most community events, worked with the most organic produce or had the highest overall percentage of local purchasing that year.”
“We all tend to follow trends in this industry like, ‘Oh man, I really want to do what they’re doing’ or ‘they do this great,’” said Bruce Logue, owner and chef of Boccalupo in Inman Park. “These decals let me see that maybe I need to do a little more or realize that I want to be higher up on that list. We’re all kind of competitive, and this is an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is. If nothing else, this campaign makes you think and look at what you’re doing, and that’s a good thing.”
“We want farmers to thrive, chefs to support them, and customers who care about this movement to know where to go to do so.” says Lauren Cox.
The USDA awarded Georgia Organics the highly competitive Local Food Promotion Program grant to fund this initiative, which aims to help farmers provide Certified Organic and locally grown foods to restaurants in metro Atlanta and to bring attention to those restaurants.
For more information on the Farm to Restaurant Campaign and events surrounding it, visit georgiaorganics.org/farm-to-restaurant-campaign/. Chefs that would like to get involved and learn more about the Farmer Champion decal and awards ceremony, should complete this form: Farmer Champion Inquiries.