Pointing to the Congress Street Bridge from the fifth floor of the nearby Boston Children’s Museum, Nicola Williams made a proud proclamation. “We are taking over this bridge,” she said. “Yes we are.”
More than a year of hard-work and sleepless nights is about to pay off for Williams, producer and marketing director of the Boston Local Food Festival and the rest of the Festival team. This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the First Annual Boston Local Food Festival will take place in front of the Children’s Museum and down Congress Street in the Boston Waterfront and Fort Point Channel. One hundred and ten vendors from New England will be present, selling local food for $5 or less.
The president of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston (SBN), Susan Labandibar explained the purpose of the event — using an apple as an example.
“For me, what this apple is,” said Labandibar, as she held up an imported Chilean apple at a press conference earlier this month, “It’s a missed opportunity for [small] business owners like me to generate income that will generate jobs in our economy.”
She said the Boston Local Food Festival will show people that the same foods that grocery stores import from all over the country and world can be purchased from local suppliers.
“Food doesn’t necessarily come from a box from an airplane from Chile — [it] can be packed locally and that is happening locally,” she said. “What’s wrong with this apple is there are apples on the trees right now, here, in New England. And we are buying apple from thousands and thousands of miles away.”
Jamey Lionette, local food guru and consultant, said that an overarching goal of the Festival “is ultimately to get local food into the city, and not just in certain neighborhoods,” he said, “but inclusive of all neighborhoods. It’s pretty clear: Food, for the first time in human history, is dangerous. We can’t just look at it as something for ourselves only; we have to make sure that everyone in this city has access to it.”
By promoting local famers, producers and chefs in Boston and New England, the Festival hopes that the limited number of restaurants serving local food in Boston will gain customers.
Highlights of the Festival include: winter cooking demonstrations; a whole-hog butchery demonstration followed bybarbeque from M&M ribs using some of the less-popular parts of that same pig; and The Food Project’s mobile farmer’s market, a service that brings local produce to areas of the city that don’t have access to local foods.
The Food Project, known for supplying produce at lower than grocery store prices as well as City Growers, known for its hyper-local urban-Boston grown produce, will supply many of the vendors present at the Festival. Also not to be missed will be Upham Corner’s own Restaurant Laura serving local Cape Verdean cuisine and Singh’s Roti Shop serving West Indian roti.
“So with this Festival,” said Lionette, ”we’re hoping that thousands potential customers will come and look for places like Singh’s or look for Restaurant Laura, try their food, go ‘Wow this is amazing; this is local; this is a reality; this can be done’ and start patronizing their restaurants.”
The Boston Local Food Festival also will act as an example of how others can take part in large-scale sustainability and recycling. The Festival will bring in its own supply of local water with two stations where people can fill their water bottles. No bottled water or soda is allowed. It will also be a zero-waste event, meaning that 90 percent of all waste will be recycled. All utensils, plates and cups will be compostable and Styrofoam will not be present.
Laury Hammel, SBN executive Director and Local Food Festival visionary, said that he thinks that asking local restaurants to participate in the Festival and having Lionette teach them where to buy local products and sustainable utensils is having an impact. The Festival is bringing about “a transformation of the local food system,” Hammel said.
As Hammel bit into a local apple, he explained that his “absolute passion for locally grown apples” was the source of his vision for the Local Food Festival.
“If you think about the fact that we are eating a lot of apples in Massachusetts and Boston that come from outside New England it’s a little bit crazy,” he said, “Why we would ever ship an apple outside of Boston until we were completely filled? I can’t imagine it!”
He wants to change a startling fact. “Less than five percent of the food we eat in Massachusetts comes from Massachusetts,” he said.
More important, he is ready to show every resident of Boston just how to change that statistic. “When you come to this festival,” he said, “You are going to see things that you’ve never seen before, you’re going to taste things you’ve never tasted before, you’re going to find out about things you didn’t know existed.”