In a word, no.
Obstacles to Buying Local
It is surprisingly hard for restaurants to buy locally-grown products.
- Geography Counts! Restaurants need a consistent steady supply of the ingredients for menu items. PEI’s location (hardiness level 5), with a last average frost date of May 23 and first average frost of October 9, means a short growing season for local agricultural products. An above average rainfall or an early frost can easily thwart the business plans of farmers and gardeners. Restaurants–even small ones like ours–rely on consistent availability of menu essentials.
- Summer Tourism Bulge! The year ’round population of Prince Edward Island is about 138,000, but each year over one million tourists visit us. (And we love you–keep coming!) Most tourists come in July and August to enjoy the beaches, golf and natural beauty of the Island. But that bulge creates a huge, temporary demand for all kinds of goods and services, including locally-raised food. It is really hard for local producers to gear up to serve the tourist market needs then quickly scale back down for the smaller numbers of residents.
- Time! Or lack of it. Sourcing locally takes time–time for producers spent on the phone and not producing. Time for chefs and owners to locate suppliers, arrange pick-up or delivery, invoice and pay for goods, etc. Buying local simply takes more time than looking at the food distributor’s catalog and making a single call.
At ‘Culinary Connections,’ I participated in a panel made up of buyers. We each spoke about what we purchase and how individual producers can best do business with us. Growers and producers were identified and shared their stories and their products. It was great to see so many new producers and hear their individual stories! Some producers even had information tables with posters and flyers. There was a lot of networking going on–it made me wish that summer was already here.
Local Ingredients Are Worth the Effort
At Maplethorpe, we have a heart for Prince Edward Island. Buying locally supports our friends and neighbors as they struggle for sustainability and rewards them for being good stewards of our shared resources. Buying locally is our way to help maintain and support vanishing rural communities. We don’t worry about food recalls or contamination because we know the people who produce the food we buy. We believe fresh and organic ingredients taste better, look better on the plate and are healthier for our family and our customers. For 2009, look for our “Farm Gate to Dinner Plate” menu, identifying selections that are 100% locally sourced.
To find local PEI growers who sell to the public, farm markets and providers of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s), follow this link.