Forage gleans a new strategy: When Forage restaurant opened in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood, they used produce from customers’ backyards to supplement their normal produce purchases, paying for the backyard produce with food or drink from the restaurant and often noting the donor’s name on the menu (“Judy’s lemonade”, “Jim’s tangerine sorbet”). It worked great for a while — with one Sunday seeing 300 pounds of produce arrive — but before long the county health department took notice and informed Forage that ‘unapproved sources’ like backyard produce were not acceptable. This knocked out Forage’s informal sourcing policy, but there is a silver lining to this Silver Lake tale. A state program administered by the Los Angeles County agricultural commission allows home growers to get a Certified Producer’s Certificate by paying a small fee and undergoing an inspection (this is the process followed by sellers at certified farmers markets). Five contributors have gone through the process already and five more are expected soon. While going through the licensing process, one of the growers has realized that because he and his wife can grow exotic produce that is unavailable from other suppliers and highly desired by restaurants, their backyard might become a serious source of income. For example, they might start growing loroco, a flower used as a flavoring element in pupusas and currently only available frozen, for a neighborhood Salvadoran restaurant. (The Atlantic; and earlier, pre-business permit coverage in the Los Angeles Times)
Corrected, 8/7/10: In the original version, the Ethicurean mistakenly convoluted two pieces of government regulation in the Atlantic article, incorrectly stating that the Food and Flowers Freedom Act is related to the Certified Producer’s Certificate used by some of Forage’s suppliers. This has been corrected above.