In the midst of a society that is dominated by mass consumption and synthetic food substances, one D.C. organization is speaking up for organic food and the protection of the American farmlands that produce it.
Founded in 1980, the American Farmland Trust is a D.C.-based organization dedicated to protecting farmlands across America from destruction caused by urban development. On Wednesday, the AFT kicked off their second annual Dine Out for Farms week, which will take place Oct. 16 through 22. Various restaurants in the D.C. area and throughout the U.S. will participate in the event by informing customers about the importance of farms in providing them with the food they eat, and by donating to the AFT.
On hand at the kick off event, which took place at the Founding Farmers restaurant, was Mike Isabella, celebrity chef and owner of Graffiato, a participating restaurant in this year’s event.
“Working with local farmers supports their business and the economy, hopefully making it more affordable for more Americans to eat locally sourced, fresh and healthy food,” Isabella said in a press release.
AFT President Jon Scholl encourages restaurants to support local farms and cook their food with local ingredients.
“The restaurant community’s support of local farms is crucial, given that the Mid-Atlantic States have been losing more than 200 acres of farmland a day to sprawling development,” Scholl said in a press release. “Between 1982 and 2007, that totaled about 2 million acres, or an area bigger than the entire state of Delaware.”
Also on hand at the kick off was Bev Eggleston, owner of EcoFriendly Foods, a Virginia-based network of buyers and growers that supports family farms and small businesses. According to Eggleston, a lack of farmland leads to a lack of farmers, which makes it more difficult to buy locally.
“Ninety percent of the farmers I knew when I moved back to Virginia in 1990 are no longer farming,” Eggleston said. I’m working with ten percent of the original farmers.”
According to Chef Isabella, buying local is not just an issue of being green, it’s an issue of quality as well.
“The more we help the farmers out, the better product we get at the table,” Isabella said. If the product is local and seasonal, the flavor is there.”
During Dine out for Farms week, participating restaurant owners will promote local farmers by serving special dishes, donating a percentage of sales or making straight donations to AFT. Isabella believes the best way to show customers the benefit of fresh food is not through rhetoric, but through the food itself.
“My way of teaching them is by evolving my menu,” Isabella said, “and not just being at the table explaining to them why, but them tasting it and understanding. I think that’s the best way for me to do it.”
In addition to Graffiato and Founding Farmers, other D.C. restaurants participating during the week include America Eats Tavern, Café Milano and Pinkberry. For a complete list of participating restaurants, go to FarmLand.org/Dineout.