Fresh Central Farm-to-Restaurant pilot begins

Photo courtesy MGN Online

Project connects local farmers, restaurants

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 6:39pm

Fresh, local produce will be on the menus at 10 Central Louisiana restaurants under a pilot program that connects local farmers with restaurants and caterers.

The Fresh Central Farm-to-Restaurant pilot began in May and will run 16 weeks, with the goal to become a stand-alone program that expands to include additional producers and businesses.

Under the pilot, the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) is working directly with the seven participating farmers and 10 restaurants to create an easy-to-use, effective and profitable process for offering local produce in area restaurants. The pilot uses the “Fresh Central” local food brand to promote the participating partners, making them easily identifiable to consumers.

“There’s a growing interest in eating locally grown and produced food, but it’s sometimes a challenge for a producer to get produce to a restaurant. We are making the process easier for restaurants to buy directly from local farmers,” said John Cotton Dean, CLEDA’s regional food systems planner. “We are creating a mechanism to easily and cost-effectively connect farmers and businesses for the long-term.”

To participate, farmers and restaurants agreed, respectively, to provide or purchase minimum quantities of produce each week.

Participating restaurants are:

  • 1921 Jackson St. A Coffee House in Alexandria
  • The Booker-Lewis House in Leesville
  • Brown Bag Gourmet in Marksville
  • The Diamond Grill in Alexandria
  • Good People Kitchen in Alexandria
  • Logan Farms Honey Glazed Hams and Market Café in Alexandria
  • Red River Grill in Marksville
  • Spirits Food & Friends in Alexandria
  • Southern Creations Catering in Pineville
  • Word of Mouth Café in Alexandria

These restaurants will be serving fresh food and produce from seven Central Louisiana farms: WesMar Farms, Gray-Walk Farms, Inglewood Farms, Cenla Produce Farms, Up to Grow Good, Farmer John’s and Cajun Grain.

The Fresh Central Farm-to-Restaurant Pilot is part of the Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative, which is funded by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation Challenge Grant and The Rapides Foundation. The initiative aims to strengthen Central Louisiana’s local food economy, while also increasing access to fresh food for all the region’s residents.

“This pilot program allows Central Louisiana to continue developing its local food economy by strengthening the important relationship among the region’s agripreneurs,” said Jim Clinton, CLEDA president and CEO. “Our goal is for the pilot to become a stand-alone program, so Central Louisiana consumers can expect to see more restaurants purchasing fresh produce from a growing network of local producers.”

For more information about this project or the Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative, contact Dean at 318.441.3424 or by email at

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is building a healthier Louisiana through community outreach and charitable giving. In addition to the Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, the Foundation has two signature programs: The Angel Award®, an annual recognition of outstanding Louisiana volunteers who improve the quality of life for at-risk children, and Smart Bodies®, a school-based program to prevent childhood obesity. Blue Cross also contributes nearly $2 million annually to various nonprofit organizations throughout the state that contribute to health, education and the overall quality of life in Louisiana communities. The Foundation is funded solely through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

The Rapides Foundation is a philanthropic organization that develops initiatives and provides grants to organizations that share the Foundation’s mission to improve the health status of Central Louisiana. The Foundation’s service area consists of Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes.

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