Alta. program connects chefs with producers

Alberta-grown produce, protein and grains will be served up on plates at restaurants in the province during a promotion running Aug. 7-16.

It is the second year for Alberta on the Plate, an event designed to connect Alberta chefs with local farmers to provide a dining experience for others.

“It’s really about trying to share that passion of local agriculture with the chefs, and what we found was a lot of places that use local still actually didn’t know how to connect directly with farmers and didn’t always have the right connections, which actually surprised us,” said Tannis Baker of Food Tourism Strategies.

Aside from encouraging restaurants to use local produce, it may also be a way to reduce food waste by establishing better communication between restaurants and farmers who have products to sell that might otherwise go unused.

Restaurants that use local farm suppliers have until July 27 to sign up for participation in the event. Based on last year’s numbers, Baker said participating eateries used vegetables, proteins, grains and even glass from more than 120 Alberta farms.

During the event, the restaurants will post their menus on the Alberta on the Plate website, along with information on whether they offer only take-out meals or dine-in service for lunch or dinner.

Baker said some that participated last year are not open or simply not in business this year because of the effects of COVID-19.

Eateries in 11 communities have so far signed up for the event. Though most are in Calgary and Edmonton, small-town Alberta is also represented.

“We’ve actually made an effort to try and push it out and look at some of those little rural road trips,” Baker said.

“We’ve tried to shine a light on some of these smaller local restaurants that are doing their best to support the local agricultural communities. So yes, we’re in the city but we’re also kind of dotted around.”

As a result, culinary road trips might involve participating restaurants in Devon, Redcliff and Wetaskiwin.

A complete list of participating restaurants, with menus and services offered, will be posted at albertaontheplate.com on Aug. 1, said Baker.

The event coincides with local food week but also spans the weekend of Open Farm Days Aug. 15-16. This year the number of Open Farm Day participants has dropped to 85 from 160 last year, in large part because of pandemic issues.

“We’re happy with the numbers, just given what’s going on,” said Baker.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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