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Local food more than just fare

By Staff | Sep 2, 2011

Bistro112 Chef Liz Gallery, top right, works with various products from local farms to create a menu for the restaurant. Chickens, herbs and produce from Evensong Farms, bottom left, as well as various other products from other regional farms highlight the growing trend of local food. (Chronicle photo illustration by Tricia Fulks)

By Tricia Fulks / Chronicle Editor

Menus across Shepherdstown feature items made from local fare.

But German Street restaurant Bistro112, formerly Stone Soup Bistro, views using local ingredients not just as a mission for its restaurant but also as a way of living.

local. from Tricia Fulks on Vimeo.

Chef Liz Gallery of Bistro112 started in the kitchen in 2000. After comparing commercial-grade and organically raised chickens, she realized the distinct differences between the two.

Gallery said the commercial chickens didn’t have as developed ligaments as the free-range organic chickens. She said the organic creatures, which have lived off of the land, felt fresh and was a texture with which she wanted to work.

“It felt like something you wanted to feed your family — the people you love,” Gallery said. “And I love everybody.”

Gallery, when she opened Stone Soup Bistro, built her menu around whatever local ingredients she could get her hands on as a way of having the restaurant operate sustainably as well as provide healthy cuisine for her customers.

“Knowing that we could have a healthy, rich community by eating well — it just makes sense,” Gallery said.

And over the years, Gallery has put together a network of regional farmers she works with to stock her kitchen.

She met Julie Stinar, owner and farmer of Evensong Farms in Sharpsburg, Md., and began working the land to understand the process. It’s from Stinar that Gallery gets the free-range chickens.

Stinar said Gallery alerts her of approximately how many chickens she will need for coming weeks, and, along with other customers’ orders, Stinar wants to make sure she grows extra chickens, anticipating unforeseen events, such as predators.

And when Gallery finds inventory in her kitchen running a bit scarce after a Saturday night, she hits the Shepherdstown Farmers Market on Sunday.

One farmer’s stand she frequents at Sunday’s market is Paul Elliot’s of Uvilla Orchards.

Elliot, who sells peaches, peppers and other produce, began farming in the 1980s when he looked after a peach crop for a family friend. He was also one of the driving forces for launching the farmers market in downtown Shepherdstown about 20 years ago.

While Elliot enjoys working with residents and restauranteurs alike, he said he cannot forget his bottom line.

“You don’t do this for nothing. There’s investment in this, and all of this investment is at risk,” he said.

And it is not just the farmers that worry about their bottom line.

Jefferson County Agricultural Officer Shepherd Ogden makes it a priority of his to balance the social and economic sides of agriculture in the county. Among Ogden’s concerns are sustaining the farm industry into decades to come.

“There’s so much more demand within a hundred miles from here than there is supply that we need to be thinking a lot about how to help newer people get into agriculture — younger people especially,” he said.

Ogden, who took over his grandfather’s seed business as a young man, has always had an interest in Jefferson County’s agricultural future as a native of the county. One way he sees it expanding in years to come — eBay.

And like many around the county, Ogden has a home garden to take care of — a smaller-scale project that he believes many can achieve.

Ellen Smith, a local resident, said on a smaller level locals can start their own gardens to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Smith, along with many others, keeps a small plot at the Morgan’s Grove community garden because she wasn’t able to plant in her townhouse area.

Smith, who also is a member of the group Sustainable Shepherdstown — a group which strives to support sustainable efforts around town, would like to see the food industry become more local in nature.

“The local means less gas, less transportation and money staying in your local economy. So it’s a win, win, win because we have healthier food, we’re destroying the earth less and we’re supporting our local economies,” she said.

Gallery said she thinks many are cognizant of fossil fuels being hard to come by and that all things food will happen at the community level soon.

“I think that we’ll have to find a way to sustain ourselves within a community,” she said.