Annual Locavore dinner features farm-fresh food

ALPENA — Fresh, locally-grown food doesn’t just taste better — it promotes healthier living, supports neighborhood farmers, and stimulates the local economy.

Organizers of the Third Annual Locavore Dinner know the impact of eating local, and they hope to share that commitment with others at the dinner, starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Aplex in Alpena.

Taste the Local Difference (TLD) has partnered with the Alpena Farmers’ Market to offer this Certified Local Food Event. TLD, Michigan’s local food marketing agency, certifies events that have at least 20 percent of their ingredients sourced locally, so this event far exceeds that requirement.

“This event is 90 percent or more locally sourced,” said Molly Stepanski, local food coordinator for TLD of Northeast Michigan. “All of the food is either being donated by farmers, or purchased from the farmers’ market.”

More certified events are cropping up, which shows a trend toward a more sustainable local food model, Stepanski said.

“Event organizers must show a sincere commitment to supporting our local food community — from farm to fork to compost and back again,” Stepanski said in a press release.

Stepanski and her husband, Dion, own Presque Isle Farm in Posen. They are one of the area farmers donating fresh produce for the Locavore Dinner.

“On a certain level our food system right now looks like it’s functional,” Stepanski said, adding that there is “convenient, readily available food wherever you go.”

But she said the quality of that food has diminished over the last 10 years, and people are starting to realize that. She said we don’t always know where our food comes from or what is in our food, and that has caused economic, environmental and health issues.

“Fewer and fewer dollars are going to a local farmer,” Stepanski explained, adding that distributors and brokers are raking in the cash that should be in the hands of local growers and producers.

She noted that the environmental impact of getting food from far away is huge.

“Our food directly contributes to the use of fossil fuels,” she said. “The typical American meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate.”

Another setback of getting food shipped in from other states or even countries is the taste.

“They’re growing tomatoes not based on ripeness or flavor, but based on durability,” Stepanski explained, adding that produce ships better when the skins are tougher, but “it doesn’t taste fresh, it doesn’t have the nutritional value, and it’s directly affecting our health.”

The bottom line is, keeping it local is best for everyone, according to Stepanski.

“There’s a whole host of reasons why buying our food locally doesn’t just benefit farmers,” she said. “It lends itself to the sustainability of the whole community.”

Chef Eric Peterson of The Fresh Palate and Chef Kevin Peterson of As You Wish Gourmet Eatery will prepare several courses for the Locavore Dinner.

Tickets are $35 apiece or $60 per pair, available at the Alpena Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, or at Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union.

For more information about this or other CLF events, email molly@localdifference.org, call 971-322-6226, or search for Certified Local Food Events on Facebook.

Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.