“Mr. Barbara Kingsolver” finds local food is a tough sell in rural Virginia

From Jane Black in the New York Times:

Steven Hopp began a small farm to help supply his restaurant, the Harvest Table, in Meadowview, Virginia Photo: Shawn Poynter for The New York Times. Click image to go to the NY Times story.

“WHEN Steven Hopp envisioned his restaurant, the Harvest Table, he drew up a list of strict rules. Local farmers would provide the produce, meats and cheeses. Lemons would be banned: after all, why ship something that is mostly water when homegrown lemon thyme might suffice? Coffee and tea would be allowed because they are dried, but they should be organic, fair trade or both.

That philosophy grew out of his own experience. From 2005 to 2006, Mr. Hopp and his wife, the author Barbara Kingsolver, decided to see if their family could rely on the food they grew here in the hills of southwest Virginia. Their 2007 best seller, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” a memoir about their experiment, helped introduce Americans to the locavore creed.

With the Harvest Table, Mr. Hopp is trying to determine whether those same principles can sustain a business beyond the big city.

“My motive is not that I love the restaurant business or that I want to create a fine-dining restaurant with local ingredients,” he said. “We want to design a business that maximizes the benefit to the most local people that it possibly can.”

Mr. Hopp’s goal was to create an egalitarian restaurant, one that is built by and caters to the community. Four years later, his dream is still a work in progress. The restaurant has breathed some life into the central square of this deflated old railroad town in dire need of economic development. It employs 18 people, significant in a community with a population of about 2,200. Its chefs buy from dozens of local farms, pay foragers for ramps and morels that proliferate in the Appalachian woods, and get all the wine from Virginia.

But in the heart of Appalachia, where there isn’t a critical mass of suppliers or customers for whom the term “locavore” rolls naturally off the tongue, the restaurant remains something of a curiosity. Mr. Hopp is, once again, a pioneer. The 50-seat Harvest Table has not yet turned a profit. Over the past several years, it has struggled to build a fan base among the area’s predominantly blue-collar residents for whom the average annual income is $15,750, and many of whom view local and organic food as out of reach.

“I’ve heard it’s expensive, so I’ve never been in,” said Bobbie Cornett, the site manager at the town medical clinic next door. “Well, that’s not true, I got a can of pop there once.”

Initially, Mr. Hopp, who teaches environmental studies at the nearby Emory & Henry College, wanted to build a year-round farmers’ market. But he soon decided that a restaurant was more viable.

He renovated two century-old buildings, using salvaged wood and old bricks, then painted them pastel blue and rose with neat, white trim. The Harvest Table and the Meadowview Farmers’ Guild, the general store next door that sells local grits, microbrews and a collection of Ms. Kingsolver’s books, opened in October 2007.

The warm, friendly restaurant has a low-key vibe that would help make it an instant hit in a progressive, urban enclave like Brooklyn or Berkeley, Calif. There is an open kitchen, and colorful paintings of barns adorn the walls….”

Read it all in the New York Times.

2 Comments

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2 responses to ““Mr. Barbara Kingsolver” finds local food is a tough sell in rural Virginia

  1. The model is a good one. The demographics is not strong enough to support. Most small towns today boast a population on Coca-Cola. So, what do you expect?

    The majority of the American public is just not sophisticated enough to appreciate fine foods, class, or healthy options and real food. They do not even know what a GMO is. But they will go to see the latest film, “Rise of The Planet of The Apes.” The point of this film is that humans have abused the animal kingdom and it can and will backfire as is the case in this film. They go to see the film because it touches their sense of adventure and excitement but most will miss the point being made. Why? Because they will not do anything in their lives to advance improvements. Only follow the crowds. And then vote in the politicians who are deceiving everyone.

    Take a model like this. Go to Middle America in an educated and affluent area and people will come. Once Organics is supported by a significant amount of the population, then the masses can be fed with sustainable agriculture too. The Globalists want mass production and row crops. They also want Monsanto and GMO’s.

    Milkmen USA is now delivering to consumers in areas throughout the country. They deliver farm fresh foods, healthy milk and dairy, and mostly organics direct to the consumer’s door in areas of Boston, Manhattan, Fairfield County – Connecticut, Westchester County – New York, and North New Jersey areas. Direct to the consumer works and it works with the farmers and not with bad politicians or corrupt businesses.

    Don’t drink milk unless it is low-temperature pasteurized Organic or raw milk from a reputable farm.

    Imagine killing a shark just for the fin to be in your soup..
    It is no wonder, The Planet of The Apes is here now.

    Ovaltine chocolate milk drink has changed to all natural.

    Drink Spring water too and forget the plastic bottled water from Poland Springs, Desani, etc.. They have all been tested and their Ph is acidic.

    Milkmen USA

  2. nedlud

    Against the military-industrial riptide~

    Just imagine how the locavores, in places like Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan are making out.

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