October 27, 2014: Chef Martin Thomas and Leah Smith at Sewickley Heights Golf Club

Chef Thomas

On Monday, October 27 at Sewickley Heights Golf Club, members and guests of the ACF Pittsburgh Chapter were educated in the complexities and benefits of incorporating local foods into restaurant menus.  The presenter, Chef Martin Thomas of Sewickley Heights Golf Club, has been working with local farmers for 14 years.  He taught about the major terminology surrounding the sustainable agriculture movement including:  certified organic, non-certified organic, free-range, pasture-raised, certified humane, and grass fed.  All of these terms are quite nuanced and understanding the differences is extremely important when working to develop a more sustainable menu.   Advantages of incorporating meats and produce from local farms into restaurant menus:

  • Utilizing the seasonal diversity and keeping menus fresh

  • There is increased public demand for local foods

  • There are health benefits to eating local and sustainably raised foods

  • Building relationships with the community

  • Supporting the local economy

  • Restauranteurs can see the conditions in which the food is grown

While working with local farmers can be rewarding, there are complexities which must also be considered.

  • Local farmers may be cautious about entering into an arrangement with restauranteurs - relationships may need to be built

  • Some produce items may not be available throughout the year, but some items can be preserved, canned, or pickled for use out of season

  • Weather can also affect availability - heavy rains can make it impossible to harvest and cold weather can destroy crops

  • Prices may be more expensive, especially when relationships are still being built; however, buying a whole cow or pig and butchering it will often balance out other food costs

  • State and federal regulations must be considered - making sure that animals are slaughtered in approved facilities

  • Communication can be an issue - some farmers prefer e-mail others prefer phone communication

  • While some farms will deliver, others cannot

The meeting ended with an informative lecture from Leah Smith from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).  PASA is an organization which advocates for a safe, sane, sustainable, and equitable food system.  They can also help to connect restauranteurs with local farmers.  Anyone interested in learning more about PASA can contact Leah Smith at leah@pasafarming.org For more information, visit:

This meeting was very informative and educational.  There were over 40 members and guests in attendance.