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Friday, October 26, 2012

Buy Local - a social movement

By KYLE HENCE/ News contributor
PORTSMOUTH — Talk of health, culture, agriculture and the local economy permeated a well-attended discussion of the benefits of “Green Eating” at the Green Valley Country Club.
The Oct. 18 event featured Casey Riley, Newport Harbor Corporation’s chief operation officer, and Jonathan Cambra of The Boat House in Tiverton. They each prepared and served dishes made primarily with locally sourced ingredients including locally caught tautog and cornmeal from Kingston’s Kenyon’s Mill.

The presentation was the second in a series sponsored by the Aquidneck Island Trust. The group’s “Conservation Speaker Series” brings focus to important conservation issues within Aquidneck Island three communities. The first event, hosted in April at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, showcased a film that advanced solutions to the global water crisis.
Chefs Riley and Cambra took turns plugging the benefits of eating local and “green,” with obvious pride in the commitment their restaurant group has made to sourcing ingredients locally. For Riley that means “buying with the system in Rhode Island but also branching out to New England.”
“We have farm produce showing up at our doors seven days a week,” said Cambra, who praised Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Market Mobile program for linking local farmers and chefs.
“It’s pretty awesome to make a meal and know where every ingredient come from,” Riley said. “We’ve made a complete dish pretty much from Rhode Island farms.”
Cambra began the presentation by filleting a freshly caught tautog — or black fish — pulled from the waters off Castle Hill in Newport.
“We want to not only support local farmers, but also local fisherman,” Riley said.
The discussion ranged from the benefits of keeping more dollars within the state by buying local produce to the health benefits of eating fresh, serving smaller portions and avoiding genetically modified foods (GMOs). Both chefs expressed concern about obesity and diabetes, now growing epidemics across the United States.
On the question of generally higher cost of local food, both speakers agreed it was commodity growing on mass scale by government-subsidized big corporations that translates to non-local food being cheaper on supermarket shelves.
However, Riley insisted that what he described as a “social movement” would explode into the mainstream and eventually transform the whole food system, as local food is demanded on the dinner table across the country. When this happened, he believes prices for the healthier and closers options would come down.
The final event in the speaker series will feature Dr. Robert Correllas, who will present a talk entitled “Nature as Nurture: Protecting Land to Protect our Health” Thursday, Nov. 8, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown.