Loudoun Goes Fresh

The fresh food fad is sweeping the nation. As consumers become more educated and concerned with the quality of their food, and cultivating a growing interest in where and how is it being grown, farmers across the country are listening. They are engaging in healthier practices, often choosing to grow organically, and investing a greater interest in feeding their local community. And in Loudoun County, the Piedmont Environmental Council is on the forefront of this movement.

The Piedmont Environmental Council has jumped on board with Buy Fresh Buy Local, a national non-profit organization and campaign dedicated to rebuilding local food systems. Chapters are developing all over the United States, promoting and connecting consumers with fresh produce from local farmers.

In Loudoun County, Buy Fresh Buy Local is working with the community, facilitating a boost in the local economy by offering an array of restaurants and local markets serving up the best food local Loudoun and its surrounding farmers have to offer.

Participating in the campaign in Loudoun can be as simple as being aware of which local restaurants and farmers markets offer fresh farm produce. Directly connecting with the Piedmont Environmental Council is a great way to get involved, and the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign guides make the search available to all.

The Council’s guides point visitors to the freshest food in Loudoun, divided into a number of categories from caterers to vineyards.

There are seven farmers markets in Loudoun, including Leesburg Market where visitors can find more than just fresh veggies. The market offers an array of produce from locally butchered meat and poultry to specialty fresh pasta, baked goods and even hand made dog treats. Local wine is, of course, also featured. Most markets are open year round, offering a variety of seasonally fresh food.

The guides also point foodies towards local restaurants which use fresh and local ingredients. The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg is one of a number of restaurants in Loudoun offering farm-to-table dining. The menu features seasonal American bistro such as sizzling local lamb sausage from Lothar’s Gourmet Sausage and crisp garden lettuce with tangy vinaigrette from three local farms. Decadent chocolate desserts from Gourmet Amore Desserts are also some of the highlighted fresh dishes that keep customers coming back for more.

In order to sustain the local agricultural industry, the word about buying locally has to be spread. To help get the word out, the Piedmont Environment Council has partnered with Armfield, Miller & Ripley Fine Properties (AMRFP) of Middleburg for a series of farm-to-table dinner benefits that will raise money to further awareness of Buy Fresh Buy Local.

Marc Schappell is a partner of AMRFP and, as a farmer himself from upstate New York, understands the necessity of community support. He knows first-hand the hard times facing the farming industry and how much effort farmers put forth to produce great food.

When the Piedmont Environmental Council approached the real estate company about hosting the benefit dinners, Schappell was excited to take the first step to raise awareness. “I know how hard it is for farmers to stay alive these days,” he said. “And if we all bought more local, I think we’d be doing a good thing for them, and just as importantly, for ourselves and the community.”

The first of the benefit dinners, “Meet the Farmer—Farm to Table,” will be held in early April when longtime community member Robert Duvall (yes, THAT Robert Duvall) will open the doors to his Byrnley Farm estate in The Plains. Along with his wife Luciana, Mr. Duvall has been very involved in the community for some time, supporting efforts like Buy Fresh Buy Local.

Claire Lamborne, of the famous Claire’s at the Depot, will cater the dinner. Bringing rich Mediterranean and Southern Caribbean flavor from her Warrenton restaurant, the dinner will feature and spotlight locally grown food.

The “Meet the Farmer—Farm to Table” dinners are open to the public and tickets are sold through the Piedmont Environmental Council. The benefit will allow the community to meet local farmers and taste the wonderfully prepared, locally produced food. As an opportunity for people who care about sustainable agriculture to share stories similar to Schappell’s, the goal is to raise awareness and develop more chapters of Buy Fresh Buy Local in the region.

Hoping to reach out to the greater DC area, Schappell wants to give Washingtonians the same opportunity as those living in the country. He knows people living in the city are just as concerned with healthy, sustainable food as anyone as evidenced by the number of neighborhoods in DC that are willing to pay more for fresh, high-quality food from farmers markets and grocery stores.

Founding Farmers is one restaurant in Washington serving up farm fresh plates. Offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, Founding Farmers also has a vegan menu and all their food is locally grown.

The Dupont Farmers Market, the largest farmers market in the city, supports local food by only selling what farmers grow or produce themselves, ensuring that purchases go straight to the farmers’ pockets. “We’re all more environmentally conscious today,” Schappell said. “We all want to reduce our carbon footprint.”

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