Michael Pollan, that guru-o-sustainability and author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, famously asked readers to "Shake the hand that feeds you." Well, April is the perfect time to do so with Lowcounty Local First's (LLF) Eat Local Month. For its third year running, the nonprofit, which promotes local businesses and farms, is asking Charlestonians to put a bit more intention into shopping, eating, and dining with a lineup of local food-focused events and one challenge. We caught up with Misty Lister, LLF director of marketing and communications, to get the scoop.
"These family-friendly events are an opportunity for folks to see where and who their food comes from," says Lister. They include April 12's Plow to Chow Farmers Market Kick-Off. If you're like us, you've been anticipating the reopening of the Charleston Farmers Market since December. LLF is heralding its return with this market launch featuring demonstrations from Limehouse Produce, The Glass Onion, and The Park Cafe, as well as kids activities. Bonus, you can purchase tickets at the booth for LLF's Lowcountry Farm Tours, which take place April 19.
"There's not another day of the year where the general public are invited to take behind-the-scene tours of Johns and Wadmalaw islands farms," says Lister. "It's a family-friendly event that you can enjoy at your own pace, see the field where your local kale is grown, how your local pork is raised, and meet the local chickens that lay your breakfast eggs." This day-long trek ($20 a carload) will introduce participants to the men and women who make the produce grow — Ambrose, Burden Creek Dairy, Dirt Works Incubator, Lowland, Legare, and Joseph Fields — as well as make stops at Sea Island Savory Herbs, Charleston Tea Plantation, Irving~House Vineyards, and more. At each location farmers will give a tour every hour on the hour, and various prepared food and produce will be available for purchase. Sales of the Farm Tour tickets support LLF's Sustainable Agriculture program, which includes the nonprofit's Growing New Farmers initiative, as well as Dirt Works Incubator Farm. Dirt Works currently helps apprentice farmers get hands-on field training, so farm tourists will literally see exactly who their admission price benefits.
Then, the farm-to-table-fan-favorite Chef's Potluck takes place April 27. One of Charleston's most anticipated feasts, this fête at Middleton Place is a celebration of locally grown goodness. "I don't think people realize how cool the Chef's Potluck really is. Where else can you go, pay only $65 (or $75 for non-LLF members), and indulge in fresh local produce, livestock, and seafood that 16 renowned Charleston chefs have prepared in collaboration with local farmers and producers?" says Lister. "The beautiful scenery, the local libations from COAST, Palmetto, Firefly, and Grassroots Wine, live music by Jazz Artists of Charleston, and a kick-ass live auction are just the cherries on top."
But the real goal for LLF is to get the community to make a conscious decision to eat local through April (and beyond) by taking their Eat Local Challenge. Participants are asked to sign a pledge on LLF's website to shift at least $10 per week for four weeks to local food. Those who sign up will receive weekly motivational emails with eating local tips. Our own advice: buy a CSA for produce, fish, or meat; hit up the Vegetable Bin; and ask for local items at restaurants and groceries. To sign up, visit lowcountrylocalfirst.org.