The latest food scare to hit our collective plates has to do with a far-flung culprit: China. Recent news stories have reported that not only have poisonous substances made their way out of the Asian mainland and in to our food, but nasty substances have also shown up in everything from toys to toothpaste. On top of that, our own systems for food security are coming under growing concern and scrutiny.
As corporations continue to lean more and more on foreign countries to provide the manufacturing for everything from t-shirts and plumbing widgets to food (and let’s not forget about the irony of importing “green” products from overseas such as bamboo flooring), the environmental impact of transporting these goods – usually thousands of miles – is great. While longtime proponents of organic foods have established a solid grassroots network, these latest issues bring to light the fact that food is an environmental issue that everyone should be concerned about.
One local restaurateur is making sure that her patrons don’t have to worry about the safety of the food on their plates. Addressing not only the need to provide healthy, organic foods but also acknowledging that buying local is the environmentally friendly thing to do, Kim Bartmann has long used locally grown produce and grass-fed meats in her menus at the three restaurants she owns: Bryant Lake Bowl (BLB), Café Barbette, and the soon-to-be-opened Red Stag Supperclub.
Not only do Bartmann’s efforts support small, local farmers, but it’s unlikely that there will be the side-stepping of food security that recently arose with a former Chinese official who not only bent the rules for a bit of pocket change, but was executed for doing so.
“Where I’m at with the arc of how I’m trying to do business is that we’ve been selling local product at the BLB and Barbette exclusively for a couple years now,” Bartmann said. And with her latest endeavor, Northeast Minneapolis’ Red Stag Supperclub that is modeled on a northwoods supper club, Bartmann said she’s trying to “raise the bar.”
(It should be noted that many other area restaurants also rely on locally grown foods, including Lucia’s, Corner Table, Cafe Brenda, Ecopolitan, and others.)
Buying her food from a local family farm, Bartmann does a lot of pre-planning – purchasing whole cows, pigs and chickens. And buying locally has other advantages as well, such as diminishing the fossil fuels burned to transport food to far-flung locations.
Certainly Bartmann runs into issues buying local produce – fresh veggies aren’t readily available in January, so she routinely changes her menus to reflect seasonal changes. But on the upside, Bartmann says her grass-fed beef from a local farmer, while it costs more to purchase, is easily offset by the prices people have to pay for freight, given the ever-increasing price of fuel. And so far, she hasn’t run into problems getting the food she needs.
As local organic foods become more and more of a desirable product, more consumers are looking not only for organic food on their grocery shelves, but also locally grown. This movement could re-invigorate small family farms, a facet of the agricultural industry that has been suffering for decades.
Bartmann didn’t stop at just making her menus environmentally friendly – in renovating the Northeast Minneapolis building where the restaurant is located, Bartmann also can lay claim to building the first LEED-certified restaurant in the state.
Working with a crew of local consultants, designers and engineers, Bartmann and her crew set about greening the space by purchasing environmentally friendly products like low-flow toilets and energy efficient lightbulbs to salvaging materials from other renovations. The bar will boast a marble slab Bartmann retrieved from a downtown hotel ballroom demo and she’s made frequent visits to neighboring business City Salvage for various odds and ends.
To meet LEED standards, there are six areas that need to be addressed: materials and resources, site selection, indoor air quality, energy and atmosphere, innovation and design and water efficiency. While it’s good for the environment, there’s also an upside to business that choose to go green.
“It’s the only way in a small business to hit your costs – by being more efficient. Thirty percent of cost in restaurants is in energy use,” Bartmann said. Implementing high-efficiency toilets, water heaters, ovens and stoves helps to not only diminish operating costs but also is less polluting as it uses less fuel and resources.
Going green in your project does leave leeway for folding in your personal touch. “I think I’m going about the LEED thing a little differently because we’re doing a lot of salvage materials and I have a thrift-store aesthetic,” Bartmann said.
Untraditional or not, if Bartmann’s latest venture brings the same cache to Northeast Minneapolis that her South Minneapolis eateries have she may just prove the going against the grain – and being green – is the best, and most tasteful, way to go.
Here are some useful links for organic and locally grown foods: