As Spring approaches early this year and produce seems more unseasonably awkward than expected, let’s embrace the entrance of sprouting greens and lighter wear during Saturday morning farmer’s market visits.
This weather was hard to predict last month when I was invited to nosh on local treats and converse with regional farmers and food producers at the Piedmont Grown conference held at the Proximity Hotel. My new pal, Jay Pierce, Chef at Lucky 32 and Chair of Piedmont Grown’s board, invited me to sit in on their conversations and planning for the newly formed nonprofit.
After indulging in a glass of Homemade Creamery chocolate milk and meeting farmers from due east and west of our area, I gained an immediate interest in their endeavors.
Not long ago a group of farmers, chefs, academics and economic developers convened around an anthropological study produced by UNC Chapel Hill. The findings of the study confirmed to the group that consumers were generally confused about where their food was coming from and what “local” really meant.
It seems we’ve lost our sense of place. Perhaps our screens have given us a false reality that food can move as quickly as our messages. But when we look up, we must realize that geography plays a dynamic role in our diets.
The folks at Piedmont Grown believe that geography has as much to do with our physical health as economic heath. Eating primarily from our region gives us diversity in our diets through the seasons and creates a ripple effect in our local economy. Plus, fresh, local foods just taste better!
Yet, “Local” is more relative than we might guess. Some large grocers advertise “locally grown” produce yet define “local” as “traveled 6 or fewer hours from the farm.” It’s confusing and challenging for consumers.
That’s where Piedmont Grown has stepped in to make it easier for us. They have created a nonprofit to promote local food through the certification of farms and food products grown or raised in 37 counties in our Piedmont Region. This provides consistency and clarity to what “local” means to us as consumers. Every time we see the logo, we know that the produce was grown from seed to growth, meats were either born or lived 2/3rds of their life and products include 50% local ingredients from the Piedmont.
Not only does it make shopping easier, it’s a huge benefit to the folks growing, raising and producing food from Mecklenburg to Wilson County. Soon enough, the collective voice of members will not only have a recognizable brand but will have a consolidated marketing plan to better educate all hungry shoppers.
For those of you stuck to your screens, Piedmont Grown has a fantastic directory of members on their website, piedmontgrown.org. Pretty soon you’ll start seeing the Piedmont Grown logo pop up in retail stores. In the meantime, look for their logo on member’s stands at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market.
As Jay Piece says, “things ripen every day.” Let’s make sure we take a chance to look up and take advantage of everything ripening in our region this Spring.
I challenged myself to prepare a brunch with using strictly Piedmont Grown members and easily came up with a brunch full of healthy, decadent and delicious treats. Challenge yourself this weekend at the market to do the same – or use my guide below!
- 1 pound Massey Creek Farm Hot Extra Sage Sausage
- 1 bag Faucette Farms Mushrooms, torn into bite sized pieces
- 1 round, Goat Lady Dairy Smoked Goat Cheese
- 1 bunch Cornerstone Farm Green Garlic, minced
- 4 handfuls, Faucette Farms baby spinach
- 4 large Massey Creek Farm Eggs
- 1 teaspoon Homeland Creamery Butter
- salt and pepper
In a large cast-iron skillet, saute sausage until browned. Set sausage aside and add 2 tablespoons of butter into the pan. Saute mushrooms in butter until tender, season with salt and pepper. Set mushrooms aside and add another tablespoon of butter. Saute green garlic and baby spinach until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Place four ovenproof ramekins on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Layer the ramekins with spinach and garlic mixture topped with mushrooms and sausage. Crack a whole egg on top – making sure to keep the yolk whole. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the egg whites have cooked and yolk is still runny. Enjoy with a nice piece of local toast!