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by Louisa May

 

GreenIan Boden’s Staunton Grocery restaurant in Staunton, Virginia is the future of food.

 

This chef and owner has put together more than just a great menu using fresh, locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables. He’s created a model green business.

He admits that being ecologically responsible is more expensive and time consuming, but he is firm in his belief that “it’s a worthy investment, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

 

So, how green is he? Well, there’s more to being environmentally friendly than buying food locally, but this alone makes the owner of Staunton Grocery pretty “cool.” According to the Cool Foods Campaign (www.coolfoodscampaign.org), a Washington D.C. advocacy group dedicated to reducing our carbon “FoodPrint,” the “coolest” foods have low FoodPrints. A FoodPrint reflects the amount of greenhouse gases that were created in the production and shipping of food we buy. According to statistics gathered by Cool Foods, twenty percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Then there are the by- products of packaging, processing, and transporting food, and suddenly we’re up to 25 to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with food. The point is this: how we choose what we eat makes a difference to the well being of our planet and even impacts climate change.

But I was talking about Mr. Boden’s Staunton Grocery. His restaurant is about one hundred miles from Richmond, in downtown Staunton, and seats about fifty. Each plate of food is created in house from scratch, and customers’ favorites include the tasting menus, four to six course meals created at the time of order. A chalkboard in the dining room lists the local producers, and this is an ever changing list depending on the season. Area farmers bring in their seed catalogs and ask Ian what he would like them to plant for the restaurant. There are over two dozen farms nearby, in and around the Shenandoah Valley and they offer more than fresh produce. Staunton Grocery is able to offer local grass-fed beef, and organic, free range chicken. The restaurant gives back to the farmers, too. Meat and vegetable scraps are saved for one farmer’s compost (he is raising pigs), and another farmer uses bio-diesel to deliver his products, so the restaurant’s spent fryer oil is given to him. Wait, does this sound folksy?

Folksy it is not. Ian has made his way back home to Virginia from cooking in some of the top kitchens in New York City. Staunton, Virginia’s location near agriculture attracted him, as did the people. The people who live here care about where their food comes from and have sophisticated palates.They are savvy and well-traveled and appreciate the farm to table experience that Staunton Grocery offers.

Still, it’s not just about the food. Takeout and delivery items are packaged in biodegradable containers and the utensils are compostable, made from compressed corn products. The restaurant recycles as much as possible.

I asked Ian what the best thing is for him about Staunton Grocery. His response was immediate, “People are getting more than good food when they come here to eat; they’re getting an education as well. That’s important to me. People who didn’t go to the farmers’ markets, I see them down there all the time now. And employees go, too.”

If you’d like to see “cool” food with a small FoodPrint, go to www.stauntongrocery.com.

Check out our Green Pages for information on money saving tips that help the environment. Once there, click on the Green Forum for more articles by feature writer Louisa May.

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