The trend Alice Waters started 20 years ago by buying local produce has become a mainstream idea as far as many restaurants are concerned. More and more organic farms are springing up in response to the demand from restaurants. The farmers are even conducting Chef Days, such as the one at Duncan Family Farms in October, to talk to the chefs about what they want the farm to grow. The restaurant menu reflects this trend by mentioning the farm where the produce was grown.
Chefs themselves have started to promote the trend. A group known as Chefs Collaborative 2000 is trying to promote sustainable agriculture as an important business and way of life. The group conducts seminars on heirloom varieties of plants, seed saving—trying to preserve seeds of plant varieties that are becoming extinct, and sustainable farming.
And organic farming has caught the interest of commercial chemical companies and produce growers. The chemical companies are developing new organic fertilizers and pesticides that have less impact on the environment that what they are currently producing. The market has gotten big enough in organic products that they are starting to take interest. Large commercial growers are also taking notice of the growing organic trend. They are beginning to experiment with organic farming in their fields. with the distribution networks these growers already have in place, you may soon be seeing organic fruits and vegetables as the regular selection in the produce aisle, with the tasteless commercial stuff set aside in the back bins.
Editor's Note: Alice Waters has continued her efforts through such Berkeley-based projects as the Edible Schoolyard, in which children grow and eat their own vegetables, and the Garden Project at the County Jail. In 1997, she was honored as the Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to her efforts, contact the Chez Panisse Foundation at 510/843-3811. Contributions are needed to support youth and community educational programs that teach people the interwoven pleasures of growing, cooking and sharing food, inspiring them to respect and care for the land, their communities, and themselves.
About the Author
Joe LaVilla originally hails from Rochester, in western New York State. Deciding to forgo his love of food, Joe pursued a degree in chemistry from Cornell University. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Univ. Of Rochester, he gave in to the inevitable and returned to his culinary calling. A graduate with honors of the Culinary Institute of America, Joe has worked in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. And at Spago in Las Vegas before settling in Phoenix, where he is currently working in off-premise catering. His excellent article "The Nuances of Cooking with Wine: Answers to Common Questions" appeared in the November 1997 issue of The electronic Gourmet Guide.
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