Athens Restaurants Doing Their Part in Keeping Things Local

Local support is the new phenomenon in Athens, Ga. With numerous local restaurants buying local food, the economic, environmental and community support in Athens is turning inward instead of outward.           

“We do the best we can to support and use local farms,” said Hugh Acheson, the owner and chef of Five and Ten restaurant located on South Lumpkin Street. “All of our chickens come from Elberton, Ga., and our eggs from Colbert, Ga. There is definitely an environmental plus to it.”

Purchasing from local farms can considerably decrease the number of “food miles”—or distance those veggies traveled before finding their way to your plate—associated with meals. Also, you know exactly where your dollars are going: directly into the pockets of local farmers, helping them financially. Not only are you aware of where your money is going, but you know where your food is coming from, how it is grown and raised, and if it’s free of unwanted chemicals. Despite these advantages, the high prices of local crops are a huge deterrent for buying locally and for many restaurants it just isn’t practical.

 “We buy from wholesale companies to cut our prices,” said Mary Katherine Ashmore, the manager of Transmetropolitan on Oglethorpe Avenue. “We would love to buy locally because I think it’s very important to stimulate our local economy, and I hope somehow we can come up with a system to lower prices so that everyone can do so.”

 According to the Sustainable Table website, farmers are earning less today than they did in 1969. Their income doesn’t even match the cost of production, making it very difficult to successfully do their job. When buying directly from the farmer, 90 percent of your dollar goes straight to them. Although crops grown locally can be pricier than at a grocery store, the money is going directly to the community to help local jobs prosper.

 “We should be eating from the land and supporting the agrarian culture that we are, especially down here in the south,” Acheson said.

The Farm 255 on West Washington Street is a restaurant that prides itself on foraging a connection with the origins of their food, according to their website. They are the owners and farmers of Full Moon Farms, a seven-acre farm east of downtown Athens, in which they grow most of their food straight from their own soil. If it’s not coming from their farm then it is coming from other local sustainable farmers with whom they have a personal relationship.

Last Resort Grill on Clayton Street is another restaurant that relies on their local connections, buying from several different native vendors.

“The food just tastes better because you know it’s fresh,” said Adrienne Hager, a waitress at Last Resort. “Also, you start to share a bond with the farmers, knowing that you are helping their business flourish, and they are doing the same for you, while y’all are both helping the local community and economy.” 

Students in the Athens community are realizing this trend as well.

“I try and do my part to buy local food whether it be at the farmers market or restaurants that I know carry locally grown foods,” said Maggie Sims, a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in broadcast news. “I know that sometimes it can be more expensive, but I think it’s worth it because I feel like I’m doing my small part on helping the environment and economy.”

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