County works to partner local farmers with local restaurants

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mary Lyth, owner of Giardini Gardens and Catering, wrote the grant proposal and will coordinate the initiative in Polk County.

The funding will be used to hire Lyth at 10 hours per week for travel and transportation and for outreach that includes beginning a website connecting farmers and restaurants and holding a harvest festival in the county.

Polk&squo;s program will network and partner with other organizations and initiatives, including&bsp; Foothills Connect in Rutherford County.

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The project, called SNAP (a Sustainable Network at Polk County) is designed to develop a sustainable network of organic farmers and restaurants that will use a comprehensive recycling plan to complete a sustainable cycle, with compost going back to the farms. It is the intent of the program to strengthen existing businesses as well as to connect new organic farmers to viable selling markets.

Farmers will sell products to local restaurants, and scraps and waste from restaurants will be made into compost to enrich farmers&squo; soil for the next set of crops.

&dquo;Polk County is a blank canvas just waiting for someone to paint a new picture, and this project is part of that picture,&dquo; Lyth said in the grant application. &dquo;By creating a highly visible, sustainable cycle that is able to be viewed and participated in at many locations throughout the county, we hope to raise the awareness of the Polk County community both for a healthier, fresher diet and for a healthier, more sustainable method of farming that will keep our air, soil and water resources pure and clean for the generations to come.&dquo;

Local restaurants already expressing interest in the program include Giardini, Stone Soup, the Purple Onion, Persimmon&39;s Bistro, the Stonehedge Inn and Pine Crest Inn, according to the application.

Plans are for members of SNAP to be committed to donating a portion of their farm produce or a portion of their restaurant food surplus to support the local food bank at Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry