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Magic almost always occurs when people connect and let ideas click. Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market owner Rick Hood knows this; it shows in the new, collaboration-friendly layout of the grocer's Beet Café, and now, it’s apparent in a group he pulled together to champion local food. Alongside him for the Real Local RVA ride are partners Michelle Williams of Richmond Restaurant Group, chefs Lee Gregory and Joe Sparatta of Southbound (as well as individual restaurants The Roosevelt and Heritage, respectively), Donnie Caffery of Good Foods Grocery, and Libbie Market’s Buster Wright and David Taylor.
The group existed in an unofficial capacity for the last two years, serving as a springboard for networking ideas, but as more independent food businesses popped up in Richmond and showed interest, it gained steam, and now it's become a go-to resource for local markets, producers, farmers and food businesses to trade info about details like distribution and packaging. Food biz consulting group The Apple Cart helped finalize the need for an official partnership and launch, and as of March 21, Real Local RVA’s website will be live, featuring bios on the founders and participants; spotlights on producers; and information about networking events and meetings.
“We’re really excited to see where this will go,” says Ellwood Thompson’s Marketing Director Colin Beirne. “Our goal is to raise awareness for the local food movement in our community.”
Beyond networking, Real Local RVA will encourage wholesaling opportunities that benefit both producer and consumer. Restaurant members will be able to combine orders for local ingredients, making those options more affordable on menus, and enabling farmers to produce more. The group will also sponsor food-related events like the Urban State Fair and Fire, Flour & Fork, opening up chances for members to participate and increase visibility for their businesses. Group participants also have the option to identify themselves with the Real Local RVA logo.
Have a local food business? Applications for spots are open now, and the only barriers to entry are that you must be a private company in the Capital Region that is growing or enhancing food locally (enhancing, as in they know you don’t grow coffee beans here, but perhaps you roast them, or you put a perfect slow-cook on that local chicken egg). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list and receive invitations to exclusive meetings; the next one is coming up on March 21, at noon at Southbound, and in true local-food-group form, there will be snacks. (So trust us, you want to get on that list.)