Sourcing locally: Why I do it

Russell Brent

Buying local is a powerful antidote against indifference with long-term benefits that outweigh the short-term costs. Facing the implications of local sourcing is a challenge to keep things fresh in more ways than one. It’s a complete lifestyle approach that includes local economic benefit, better health, better taste and good feelings.

  • Keeping dollars local stimulates our own economy and increases growth and success in local businesses.
  • Our food provides physical energy and healing. The nutrient value in fresh, local produce is more potent because the intrinsic value of the food has not degraded.
  • Fresh is sweeter, tangier, juicier, more tart and more crisp. Consider the alternative tomato: It is modified to ripen during transport, be a uniform size and color and hold its shape in the slicer. Would you rather identify a tomato by its cartoon like appearance or its delicious taste?
  • When we buy local, we are taking care of our neighbors while they take care of us. As a community, this makes us stronger, happier and more able to grow. It makes my efforts as a business owner far more satisfying.

Being the proprietor of Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground, I’ve stumbled across a few nuggets about the costs and benefits of local sourcing:

  • I need to know my neighbors. It takes time and personal investment to know who they are, what they do best and when. I need to go where they are anyway because many cannot deliver. There are endless beneficial ramifications to this, both practical and intangible.
  • These relationships generate a cross-pollinating network that connects all of us. This network creates opportunities that never reveal themselves if we are indifferent.
  • We adjust our menu according to the season because we can’t buy fresh picked fruit, berries and vegetables all year long. This keeps our menu dynamic, gives our customers something to look forward to and releases the creative energy of my staff.
  • We make sure our guests know they are getting the benefits of fresh and local. Their knowledgeable enjoyment turns into effective word-of-mouth marketing.
  • While a 15-table restaurant may be able to source from local farmer’s markets, a higher volume restaurant needs to work with a local intermediary.

We partner with Jennifer Carrell at 4 C’s Produce to augment our direct relationships with local farmers. She provides quantity and quality from her sources. We also end up with local recipes for our menu. Jennifer is part of our grassroots marketing. Knowing her fruit, veggies and recipes are on our menu, she sends new patrons our way constantly.

As a restaurant owner, the time spent sharing stories makes the fabulous fresh produce I share with my customers even more satisfying. The Boldt family from Velvet Acres provides fantastic tomatoes, kale, peppers and cucumbers. Seeing them in the dining room feels like a family reunion.

We are losing millions of dollars as patrons frequent the 14.3 restaurants per 10,000 residents in Multnomah County. We have 5.7 per 10,000 on this side of the river. To compete, we need more restaurants that offer the best possible fare. This means fresh; fresh means local – not just for taste that the consumer will appreciate, but for the sake of fostering an economy that will support more local business.

In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great,” he describes the Hedgehog Principle as one of the key elements of a successful and sustainable business. Hedgehogs focus on what they do best. In the Pacific Northwest, one of the things we do best is grow amazing food. It makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity.

Let’s walk these paths with our neighbors. It’s better for all of us.

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