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Fresh and Local

Buffalo First hosts a local food summit for area restaurants, retailers, and growers

Amy Kedron

The race to get fresh, local food on the menus of Buffalo restaurants and in local stores is officially on.

Last Tuesday, Buffalo First, Slow Food Buffalo, the Massachusetts Avenue Project, and area farmers markets hosted the first meeting about local food sourcing at Buffalo First’s headquarters in the Market Arcade building. It was also the inaugural meeting of Buffalo First’s year-long Buffalo First on the First “local, green, and fair” series, to be held the first day of each month.

The point of the meeting was to help connect producers (growers, farmers, food artisans) with area retailers and distributors (restaurants, grocery stores). “We just want to let everyone get to know each other, and to get this conversation started,” said Amy Kedron, Buffalo First’s executive director.

Buffalo First and several speakers from the local food scene kept the conversations focused on its core values: people, planet and profit. In two breakout sessions—one for retail, one for production—groups began the complex process of identifying the area’s best green and local sourcing options, existing buyer’s collectives and establishing a local/sustainable wish list.

Kedron had expected “25, maybe 30” people to show up at the meeting, and was thrilled and a bit overwhelmed by the crowd of 75 who stayed for hours. They talked, they argued, they sipped Flying Bison beer and other homegrown snacks. Buffalo First already has 180 members and is expanding its base in response to increasing interest in local business networks.

Participants voiced frustration in the realities of Buffalo’s foodshed. “We want guarantees, or something close to it, that what we’re buying locally is going to be the same price, not more expensive,” said reps from several restaurants, including Allentown’s Sample.

On the other hand, Brian Shelton, a cook at Oliver’s and a recent transplant from Portland, Oregon, saw things differently. “I moved here last April and really want to see the local/organic thing take off here in Buffalo.” In Portland, Shelton said, farms proudly take their wares around to all the restaurants to help chefs choose what’s fresh that day or week. “If you’re a restaurant in Portland, you do local, it’s that simple.”

The eventual task force that takes root from these initial meetings will face the uphill battle of getting more healthy, locally-grown food into the city and supporting family farms and local business. Currently, the number of small-scale farms growing organic or naturally produced food—especially meat—is very low for such an agriculturally rich region. “I want to see organic and local foods everywhere I shop and where I eat out,” said one Buffalo resident.

David Setzer, co-founder of Slow Food Buffalo and an artisanal breadmaker, said he can’t find any locally produced grain to bake with, for example. “And we just don’t have the meat processing facilities for our local butchers and meat farmers to take advantage of.”

However, the good news is that the meeting produced many lists—what kinds of food can be successfully grown and where, how to transport and deliver them, and what obstacles currently exist to prevent new access points for food delivery, especially in underserved urban neighborhoods.

Anyone interested in joining Buffalo First or attending First on the First meetings should call 716-913-1990, or visit

—lauren n. maynard

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