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EAT SCENE: Dine Local

several restauranteurs look to local producers for ingredients

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by Carrie Weiss photos by Andrea Paulseth

Over the course of several decades the labels “certified organic,” and “all natural” have become major players in the world of food, invading supermarkets and causing that pang of guilt when forced to choose between the 52-cent bananas and the 84-cent bananas. However, another player, ever present, though more discrete, has caused the saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” to become all but obsolete for some Chippewa Valley restaurateurs.

An increasing number of local eateries are choosing to keep their fare exactly that: local. Rather than using a large distributor, restaurant owners and chefs are turning to producers in their own backyards for ingredients. Family-owned farms and farming cooperatives scattered throughout western Wisconsin and Minnesota are the providers for the establishments that have chosen to “go local.”

Terry and Paula Vajgrt own The Creamery Restaurant and Inn in Downsville. In the past year they have moved to taking maximum advantage of local products; “local, organic, sustainable, are really sort of our buzzwords ... when we’re sourcing out our food,” Terry stated.

Though these three terms are often grouped together, there are important distinctions between them. “The organic ‘tag’ isn’t necessarily our main motivator all the time. There are many people that are farming very sustainably, in very positive methods, that maybe don’t have the designation of organic,” clarified Vajgrt. The USDA certification for organic farming is something that many local farms do not have.

One such farm is Alchemy Family Farm, near Colfax. Alchemy will provide its organically grown heirloom vegetables to The Creamery, Houligans, Hahn’s Market, and others this season. Owner Dean Parent’s philosophy on food echoes that of Vajgrt, and he feels that “The whole USDA designation of organic is flawed at best. That’s why we haven’t contributed to it.”

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