The Commons
Food and Drink

Keeping it local

Farm-to-plate localvore movement takes hold, verging on sustainability

Originally published in The Commons issue #168 (Wednesday, September 5, 2012).

BELLOWS FALLS—The localvore movement is finally starting to take hold.

Popolo, which opened recently on the Square in Bellows Falls, is using local food — “local” defined as “within 60 miles.”

The Gleanery, which will open in the fall in Putney, will feature food prepared from fruits, vegetables, and meats produced by local growers and farmers.

Those restaurants are two examples of new businesses spawning along the Connecticut River Valley, including several restaurants, an old-fashioned village grocer and sundries market, and community gardens.

Tying these endeavors together is the vision of people whose passion is food and feeding people, supporting local growers and producers, and assembling people with similar interests to make it happen.

Keeping it local in Bellows Falls

Popolo, which means “people” in Italian, is an Italian restaurant in the newly renovated Windham Hotel. A back deck, the continuing scene of local troubadours, summer drinks, and delicious local food-sourced appetizers, happens to overlook one of the first canals, maybe the oldest, in the United States.

The restaurant is managed by three partners, Gary Smith, Kristen Fehrenbach, and Chef John-Michael Maciejewski, who are backed by some 25 investors.

It began, Smith said, when “Kristen, John-Michael, and I proposed the idea of Popolo to friends [...] with an affinity for community projects.”

“Within a few months, we’d gathered together a group who funded our venture,” he said. While some investors are from afar, others are buying a stake in their own community’s business success.

“Locavesting, like the localvore movement, appears to be on the rise as people begin to realize that keeping money in your local economy makes for not only good communities, but for good business,” Smith explained.

Community-supported restaurant

Ismail Samad, Alice James, and Elizabeth Ehrenberg, who are in the throes of opening a new restaurant in Putney, the Gleanery, moved to the area for the same fertile food-to-plate environment.

The trio met at the Putney Inn a few years ago, and when the Front Porch Café folded in the Tavern building last year, conversations started organically occurring based on “our combined personal assets” being ripe for a community supported restaurant in Putney.

Based on the community-supported agriculture model, the restauranteurs have attracted almost 60 members, raising about $45,000 of their target goal of $65,000 needed to open this fall.

Along the way, they have traded for goods and services from legal and marketing professionals as well as from their architect.

In addition to meals, the Gleanery will offer a variety of goods and services based on and around local food.

Samad, the chef, will offer a variety of classes in the kitchen on topics that range from canning and preserving foods to knife techniques and other cooking skills.

The architectural plans call for a “chef’s table” in one corner of the kitchen, where “people can sit for a long meal and converse with the chef while he works,” said Samad, pointing out that the idea was inspired by sushi bars.

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