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Local-produce push gets bigger in Texas

Local-produce push gets bigger in Texas

Restaurateurs and small farms across Texas are getting some matchmaking love from the state’s Department of Agriculture.

As part of the department’s “Go Texan” program, officials are bringing operators together with boutique farmers, ranchers and vintners in the state’s growing wine industry.

“We’re proud to see how chefs across the state are showcasing Texas wines and using fresh ingredients grown and raised right here in the Lone Star State,” said Texas agriculture commissioner Todd Staples. “When Texas restaurants connect with area producers to serve locally grown, seasonal products, the consumer enjoys the freshest ingredients possible, and the state’s economy is strengthened.”

Mark Bedford, director of food and beverage at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, said: “Our partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture has been a good one. We first met them on a tour of the local farms, in which the chef and his team were able to set up contacts locally.”

Bedford said executive chef Javier Ortiz was able to discuss delivery, order sizes and quality directly with farmers.

“TDA has done a great job uniting both farmers and chefs in the Central Texas region,” Bedford said.

Bryan Black, assistant commissioner for communications for the TDA, added that the Go Texan program “has been encouraging shoppers, chefs and consumers to ‘buy local’ for more than 10 years, but in the last couple of years we’ve enhanced the program by adding new initiatives, such as the Go Texan Restaurant Program.”

That program encourages diners around the state to enjoy Texas menu items at restaurants that serve up “fresh from the field” favorites, Black said. The TDA connects restaurants and producers all year long, but spotlights them during the annual statewide Go Texan Restaurant Round-Up. The third year of the roundup will take place Sept. 27 to Oct. 1.

The department also works with farmers markets around the state to showcase local chefs using local products in the May-August “From Market to Menu” program.

The state efforts come as customers seek new options, added Bedford of the Hyatt Regency.

“I believe people want to try more things, and so portion sizes are smaller and tasting menus are very popular,” he said. “This plays right into the local push, because people want fresh, seasonal ingredients. Our consumers are smarter and better prepared for their dining experience.”

The partnership with the state and local farmers is timely, he added: “Sustainability makes sense—not only are you giving back to your local community, you are providing and working with the freshest product available to you. No long transit time for products, just local, fresh ingredients ready to cook. In these highly competitive times, you may only get one chance with your patrons.”—[email protected]

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