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Compared to Ohioans in other regions of the state, Toledoans are as likely to be interested in local foods but less likely to be interested in organic foods, according to research by Shoshanah Inwood, a rural sociology doctoral student at Ohio State University.
Ms. Inwood s master s thesis focused on the use of locally grown foods in Ohio retail outlets and restaurants. In 2003, she interviewed restaurateurs, chefs, and others in the food business in Ohio. One of her conclusions was that with assistance, northwest Ohio farmers could shift production from crops exported outside the state toward foods bought by Ohio restaurants and local retail outlets.
In the coming months, among the projects offering opportunities for chefs and growers to work together around Ohio are:
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Ms. Inwood is one of the organizers of four cooking events led by Columbus chefs who will demonstrate how to cook dishes from locally grown foods. "What s Cooking in Your Backyard? A Culinary Adventure at the North Market" began Sunday and continues Sept. 11, Oct. 9, and Nov. 13 in Columbus. The events are the brainchild of Alana Shock, chef and owner of Alana s Food and Wine restaurant, 2333 North High St., with support from the Central Ohio Chef-Grower Network and the North Market.
Remaining classes will be at 1:30 p.m. and have a suggested donation of $35 per person or $50 per couple. Information: Martha Balint of the Central Ohio Chef-Grower Network, 614-439-3132.
Sunday s topic was Hot Tomatoes and Cool Weather Crops led by Ms. Shock.
The remaining schedule:
Sept. 11 is Cheese in the Orchard, featuring Oakvale Farmstead Cheese of London, Ohio, and the orchard of Bill and Vicky Thomas of Philo, Ohio.
Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. is Harvest Celebration Dinner at Alana s, with five guest chefs from Columbus and ice cream from Jeni Britton of Jeni s Ice Cream. Cost will be $75. Contact Alana s at 614-294-6783 for reservations. Space is limited to 50.
Nov. 13 is Fowl Holidays, featuring unique heritage breeds of fowl led by North Market s poultry and game chef Darrell Grimmett of Network Restaurant.
"I found that chefs were particularly interested in local foods, but they didn t really know how to reach local growers," said Ms. Inwood. The goal of the project is to establish local relationships between chefs and growers to increase the use of locally grown foods in area restaurants. "Diners are really interested in locally grown food," Ms Inwood said.
The Chef-Grower Network is financially supported by OSU and encouraged by the Chefs Collaborative, a national network of more than 1,000 members of the food community who promote sustainable cuisine.
Another partnership of grassroots and research-based agricultural groups is the 23rd annual Farm Tour Series intended to foster sustainable food systems in Ohio. Tours are held throughout the state (www.oeffa.org or call 614-421-2022).
Last weekend, Ben and Lisa Sippel of Mount Gilead hosted a tour at their farm. The Sippels grow more than 40 "chemical free" vegetables using mechanized tillage, plant, and crop care. They sell their produce at farmers markets and local restaurants including the North Star Cafe (Columbus).
In northwest Ohio, a Sustainable Agriculture Field Day will be held at John Hirzel Research and Education Site at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at 13737 Middleton Pike (State Rt. 582), Bowling Green. The bulk of the program will be organic corn plots and various types of research at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation, according to Rebecca Singer of the Center for Innovative Food Technology. One segment will highlight the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen.
It is costly to start a small-scale food manufacturing operation. The Cooperative Kitchen assists entrepreneurial efforts, and has helped a few businesses in the area. Some of these food entrepreneurs will be on hand to showcase their products and obtain feedback from attendees. Items featured will be baked goods, barbecue sauce, snack mix, and a basting mix.
The Lake Erie West Foodshed Congress will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 12 in the McMaster Center in the Main Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. It will explore all aspects of food and provide a network among farmers, processors, distributors, restaurants, and consumers. According to Michael Szuberla, Toledo GROWS director, featured speakers include Will Allen, a professional basketball player-turned-organic farmer and entrepreneur in Milwaukee; Amy Bodiker, former director of Chef s Collaborative; OSU s Ms. Inwood, and organic farmer Phil Sherry of Defiance.
The fees for lunch and an optional tasting event in the evening will be announced. Information and registration: 419-936-2975.
Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor.