Although the idea of organic and health conscious restaurants is not necessarily a new trend , some local restaurants are taking the farm fresh attitude a step further.
Café Muse in Royal Oak, as well as several other local eateries, have begun to utilize locally grown produce in their menus.
David Smith, owner of Café Muse, said that while organic has always been a priority for the restaurant, purchasing ingredients locally has also been important.
“We’ve always wanted the freshest ingredients possible,” Smith said. “It made sense to reach out to local farmers.”
About three months ago, Café Muse became involved with the Royal Oak community farm. The community farm is a project of Royal Oak Forward, a community-oriented nonprofit organization.
David Baldwin, executive director of Royal Oak Forward, said the farm started this year as an attempt to benefit several different segments of the community.
“It really helps restaurants market themselves as supporting the community by buying local ingredients,” Baldwin said. “It’s beneficial to the farm and the restaurant, as well as to residents who can go to a restaurant and get locally grown produce.”
After a volunteer for the farm brought the farm’s vegetables to Cafe Musé, a partnership was formed.
Thus far, the Royal Oak Community Farm, located off 11 Mile Road, has received positive responses from those who visit the garden, who purchase produce from the garden at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market, and from patrons of Café Muse.
“People are glad to see something positive happening on this land instead of it just sitting here,” Baldwin said. “It enhances the community, which was a founding principle of the farm.”
In addition to using produce from the community farm, Smith and Café Muse executive chef Greg Reyner have been working with other farms.
“It’s important to use local farms as much as possible because it has a big impact, both economically and environmentally,” Smith said. “It both strengthens the local economy by putting money back into the local farms and it’s also for businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint. When you don’t have to transport vegetables, you reduce that process.”
This past year, the restaurant began working with a farm in Clinton Township that sets aside a plot for Café Muse and grows whatever they request. Additionally, they have been developing a partnership with a new Highland Park farm.
“It’s nice to be able to work with the farmers to decide what you want to grow and coordinate the harvesting,” Smith said.
The Michigan Micro Farms organization has started selling produce to local restaurants as well, including Café Muse and The Hills in Grosse Pointe.
Mike Berschback of Michigan Micro Farms, located in Chesterfield Township, said that his organization is largely trying to get people back to a more personalized approach to growing food.
“Local food is out there and this is how it used to be; small farmers are growing their own crops and selling them,” Berschback said. “In the last 40 years, it’s been large corporations growing the food, which isn’t how it should be or how it was meant to be.”
Smith agrees that it’s important for people to not only support local restaurants, but to purchase locally grown food themselves. Reyner purchases ingredients from the Royal Oak Farmers Market each week for the restaurant’s menu.
“It’s important to use as many local products as possible,” Smith said. “People don’t necessarily think about that. You buy eggs from a local farm and you keep that money in the community.”