Last weekend my husband and I took a short trip to Asheville, North Carolina, a haven for local food, local beer, and local industry. It was inspiring to see so many local-to-North-Carolina farms and businesses supported in such a big way, and Asheville is a model for how Birmingham can grow to support our local economy even more. Birmingham already has fabulous restaurants that use local ingredients, two local breweries in operation – with more on the way, and an abundance of local farms that need our support. We just need a commitment to nurturing those seeds of local industry, and we can look to our friends in Asheville to show us the way.
One of the coolest things about Asheville, and North Carolina in general, comes from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a group dedicated to promoting food and farming systems as well as protecting the environment and local economies. The CEFS has sponsored the 10% campaign, the goal of which is to get consumers to commit to spending 10% of their food dollars with local growers, producers, and associated businesses. This simple change represents only a small dent in individual pocketbooks, but it stimulates local industry in a big way. Encouraging people to spend just $10 out of every $100 grocery bill with local farmers not only supports the farm economy but also encourages healthy eating through seasonal produce and can promote job growth as the need for local food increases. I see no reason why we can't do something similar in Birmingham.
The fact that Asheville has amazing restaurants and breweries definitely doesn't hurt the cause for local food either. And though the fall colors and proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway are nice, we usually end up visiting Asheville just to eat and drink. I'm a fan of breakfast food, so Early Girl Eatery is always a must. They have a huge chalkboard in the front listing all the local growers they support, and though they also offer lunch and dinner, I go for my fix of country ham, biscuits, and local mixed-berry jam. A new favorite this trip was the White Duck Taco Shop. With interesting twists on the traditional taco, like the excellent Thai Peanut Chicken taco, this small business uses local and seasonal ingredients whenever they're available. Asheville boasts XX breweries in town and the surrounding area, and most offer tours or tasting rooms onsite. Craggie Brewing Company might be one of the smallest, but their heritage-recipe Antebellum Ale, with its hint of juniper, is worthy of a larger audience. Craggie crafts organic beers and uses local ingredients to do so whenever they can. The biggest brewery, Highland Brewing Company, offers great tours everyday at 4pm, with a sample of their 5 mainstay beers included. The company is committed to sustainability, and our guide told us about an initiative North Carolina is working on to encourage local tobacco farmers to switch to growing hops (one of the main ingredients in beer), so they could possibly use all local hops in the future.
There's a lot to enjoy about Asheville, and one of the best parts is how good it feels to know you're supporting local farmers and industry while doing so. We have all the ingredients to be a local-food haven ourselves, and it only takes a little effort to support our farmers, restaurants, breweries, and businesses in a more dedicated way. Plus, you get to enjoy deliciousness while doing something good. I propose we adopt North Carolina's 10% initiative or something similar. Who's with me?
Source: Emily Brown Freshfully