Our final blog on local foods and Transition in Action this month comes from Corbin, Kentucky.
1. First off: Who are you? What hats do you wear?
2. How do you/your organization connect with local foods work in the region?
Three years ago, Downtown Corbin assisted the Whitley County Farmers Market in establishing a second location in the heart of our city. Fueled by local prepared foods, live music and a fresh advertising campaign, the market has seen a great deal of success. We won Kentucky Farmers Market Association’s Small Market of the Year in 2013 and have been featured in numerous national publications. Most recently our story is being told at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference. Also, through You and Me and The Wrigley, local foods via our farming network make up a significant portion of our menus.
3. Can you share a compelling example of the local foods movement in Appalachia from your perspective?
Before opening the Wrigley, a very talented cook and farmer named Kristin Smith of Faulkner Bent Farm built up quite a reputation for preparing delicious meals sourced from her own pork and beef. She would sell her plates, food truck style, to customers at the market. She was able to test out the market for high-end, farm-to-table food, which later gave her the confidence to co-found The Wrigley alongside myself and a third partner. If it wasn’t for the market, we wouldn’t have had the confidence to move forward with a brick and mortar restaurant.
4. What role do you see local food playing in the region’s future?
We have a deep and varied history of food production in the region. I think that southeastern Kentucky and Appalachia can offer a unique sense of terroir which will drive food-based tourism. As we rediscover our food heritage and re-acclimate ourselves to the ingredients of the region, we have the opportunity to build a food scene that is distinctly and uniquely Kentuckian.
In addition, as we celebrate and draw attention to our farmers, we help them build viable and sustainable businesses as well, further diversifying the economy and strengthening our local food system. It’s important to remember that when you purchase a meal from a restaurant committed to sourcing from local suppliers you might be supporting up to 10 different businesses; every producer down the chain will benefit from that transaction. That is a hopeful scene, one that I hope to see more of in the future.