5 Benefits of Choosing local produce for your NYC restaurant
We’ve all walked by a farmer’s market in New York City at some point or another, whether it was in Union Square, Grand Army Plaza, or Flushing. No matter where in the Big Apple you are, there’s likely a farmer’s market. But as a restaurant owner, what’s the point of going to the farmer’s market, especially if your business already has produce vendors?
Here are 5 reasons that your restaurant should choose local produce and shop at a nearby farmer’s market.
1) It's good for the environment, and can reduce your footprint
Chances are there is a farmer’s market in your restaurant’s neighborhood. If not, there is likely one quite close by! You don’t have to go far to access fresh, local produce. By choosing locally grown produce, you are reducing your carbon footprint. Transporting food from long distances uses a large amount of energy- think about how far away veggies often travel from. A lot less energy and resources are needed to transport a sweet potato from Upstate New York than from California. Conserve fossil fuels by purchasing food from small, local farms.
Food from the farmer’s market is not always certified organic, but often the crops are grown using less pesticides, hormones, and insecticides than large commercial farms. Small farmers also tend to use growing methods that have less impact on the land. Fewer agricultural resources that pollute water, land, and air are used and needed on non-commercial farms. Choosing local produce means choosing to support the environment.
2) Connect with your community
Going to the farmer’s market is an easy way to become more active in your community. The market is a great place to connect with other folks who shop there. Perhaps other chefs get their produce from there as well. There are often other businesses who have stands there, such as breweries and bakeries, and they may be a great community partner and resource for your business. If other market patrons see you shopping for your restaurant, they may come say hello and dine at your restaurant to support you too.
3) Support Local Farmers, and know where your food comes from
Local food is generally required to be from within 200 miles of the location its being sold in. With this, you can know that your food is coming from farmers nearby. The farms are not always in NY, often they are from NJ and PA, but there are stands at the market with information about where the farm is located. You are encouraged to say hello to the folks at the stand, they will be happy to chat and tell you all about the farm that grows your food. If interested, you may be able to visit the farm to see how the produce you serve in your restaurant is grown.
4) Enjoy Fresh, Seasonal and Delicious goods
Produce that comes from a small, local farm is generally picked from the crop within a day or two of market, as opposed to grocery stores where produce is boxed and shipped and can be over a week between the day its picked and sold. Produce from farmer’s markets is rarely held in storage, and often ripens in the field and then brought directly to market, where you can then purchase it for use in your restaurant. Of course, some produce needs to be picked before, so make sure to plan ahead when you are shopping—not everything is ready to eat on the same day! The fruits and vegetables at the market are sold at the peak of their growing season, so they are going to taste incredible. Think about how delicious they will be in a new dish at your restaurant.
Items found at the farmer’s market are not limited to fruits and vegetables. The farmer’s market is a great place to buy locally and ethically raised meat. In fact, there’s a large variety of meat that farmers bring to markets that is often hard to find in grocery stores. Farmers also sell cage-free eggs, organic milk, and even chocolate milk and muffins for those with a sweet tooth. The market is also a perfect place to get fresh baked bread.
5) Improve your restaurant's image
There are over 15,000 restaurants located in NYC. Competition for customers is high, and as a restaurant owner you need to make sure you stand out and stay ahead of the game. Many restaurants now boast their commitment to the environment and choice of using local vegetables, fruits, meat, and grains. Choosing local goods can help improve your restaurant’s image. By choosing local food, your restaurant may identify as ‘farm-to-table’. Farm-to-table is a social movement which promotes choosing and serving local food at restaurants or other establishments. These restaurants often mark on the menu which ingredients are local, and sometimes even name the farms that the restaurant sources the food items from. Customers will be happy to know that by eating at your restaurant, they are also helping support local farmers and businesses. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
These are just a few of the many reasons you should shop at your local farmer’s market. If anything, it’s an excuse to get outside, take a walk, and see some cute dogs. Produce from the market can be more expensive on certain occasions, but with all these environmental and social benefits, it’s worth it!