Four Madison area restaurants have dedicated themselves to serving locally-grown produce and joined REAP Food Group’s Buy Fresh Buy Local program.
Buy Fresh Buy Local Manager Theresa Feiner said Heritage Tavern, Banzo, The Freehouse Pub and The Great Dane will join 45 other restaurants already involved in Buy Fresh Buy Local’s mission.
REAP has been a nonprofit organization for 15 years that does sustainable food system work in schools and restaurants.
“We try to help engage eaters and connect them with local farmers,” Feiner said.
The Buy Fresh Buy Local program first started with 12 partners and was added on seven years ago, Feiner said. It was originally funded by a Sustainable Agriculture Research Education federal grant, she said.
The program gets new partners throughout the year, with the most joining in January, Feiner said.
When dining out, many members of REAP search for restaurants that support or are a part of the Buy Fresh Buy Local program, Feiner said. With Buy Fresh Buy Local restaurants striving for this ideal, local farmers have seen a really big economical surge as well, which is great news for local supporters, she said.
Feiner said all Buy Fresh Buy Local restaurants support the local community, farmers and sustainable agriculture. The REAP website features a full list of all the restaurants, grocery stores and health care partners that are all involved in the program.
According to the website, the mission of the program is to promote a more sustainable and local food system by connecting local producers and buyers and, overall, providing economic benefits to all participants and sustainable food opportunities to Madison customers.
“Our members and our eater base is super dedicated to supporting those establishments,” Feiner said.
Netalee Sheinman, owner of Banzo, said they chose to get involved because of similar ideals.
“We’re also a small family-owned business; most of the people here work very hard and care about the business and most of them are from Madison or surrounding areas,” Sheinman said. “We always prefer to support local businesses as opposed to big corporations or bigger nonlocal businesses.”
Sheinman said Banzo’s plans for serving local food are ongoing, with their current menu featuring Wisconsin potatoes, local mixed greens when available, local meat, feta cheese and yogurt from Wisconsin.
Buy Fresh Buy Local restaurants want to support local farmers, and think the produce quality is better too, she said.
“It seems that in Madison in particular people get more excited when the food that’s served or the food we carry are more locally sourced,” Sheinman said. “Our difficulty is mostly we’re very produce-heavy and being that Wisconsin is cold for most of the year it’s hard for us to source as locally as much as we’d like.”
Sheinman said she hopes to feature specific farms and begin specials with products from the particular farms.
As more restaurants show their support of Buy Fresh Buy Local and their ideals begin to take hold, a new food revolution seems to be underway in Madison, Sheinman said.