THE BEGINNING OF BUZZWORDS
In 1998, buzzwords like “farm to table” and “organic foods” weren’t yet part of many Chattanoogans’ vernacular. But that year, a sustainable agricultural project within the city was just about to take off. “Our founders, Will and McNair Bailey and Mary Moore, approached the city looking for a space to grow local foods. Fortunately, a beautiful property was donated to the city around that time, with the stipulation that it remain in agriculture. It was the perfect fit,” explains Crabtree Farms project coordinator, Andrea Jaeger.
Describing the founders as some of the first visionaries in the local food movement, Jaeger credits their foresight and support as being the driving forces in creating Crabtree Farms. Today, the nonprofit organization, which serves the community through sustainable food education and advocacy programs, has a 30-year lease with the city, renting the property for only $1 per year.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BUYING LOCAL
These days, local food is at the forefront of people’s minds, across the country and here in our city. “I would say that it’s a huge part of our culture,” Jaeger says. “People in Chattanooga are outdoor minded, and many have real concerns about our environment. Sustainable agriculture is one of the most important en
vironmental issues of our time, and I think that’s the reason why people really embrace it.”
Apart from the environmental benefits provided by using local foods, Jaeger explains that local food is usually harvested at the peak of ripeness, within hours of arriving on your plate. Food loses its nutritional value the longer it sits in a box and on a shelf, so when you eat fresh, locally-grown food, you’re getting a more nutritious bang for your buck. The importance of getting locally-grown foods onto the tables of Chattanoogans is also emphasized by Whitney Marks, sales and marketing representative at Harvested Here Food Hub, which exclusively buys local food from farmers and distributes it to area organizations. On the Food Hub blog, she cites both freshness and taste as major factors that not only give local food the edge, but also boost the economy. According to Grow Chattanooga/OCHS Center, if Chattanooga area residents increased their local food purchasing by only 5%, more than $100 million in new revenues would benefit our local economy. “Money spent locally stays local and builds the local economy,” Marks writes.