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The Man Behind “The Convenience of Local Food”

Charles with Students

Sunburst’s Second Summer Solstice Soiree for ASAP is fast approaching – June 21, to be precise! Sunburst Trout Farms is graciously hosting the dinner as a benefit for ASAP. Tickets are going fast, so BUY YOURS NOW to enjoy dishes sure to be talked about for some time to come!Sunburst Trout Farms’ Research and Development Chef, Charles Hudson, has created a menu for the soiree that will demonstrate the “Convenience of Local Food.” Charles has a long history of working with ASAP and our Growing Minds Farm to School program. You can see Charles cooking with students from Central Elementary School in Haywood County in the photo above.

Read this interview with Charles to find out more about the soiree menu and about his commitment to local food!

What is the inspiration behind the menu for Sunburst’s Second Summer Solstice Soiree for ASAP?

When I first began thinking about the menu for this year’s soiree, I had been doing quite a bit of traveling by car up and down I-40 – first to New Bern for the North Carolina Aquaculture Conference, and then to Raleigh, Durham, and points in between. This meant I was making stops in many convenience stores along the way. What really caught my eye was how some of the food choices in the convenience stores have changed over the years, and why some have stayed the same. In one particular store, there was a great selection of salads, fresh cut fruit, and freshly prepared wraps. I thought to myself, “Wonder where that lettuce is from, or who grew those sprouts that are on the wraps?” I’m automatically looking for the ASAP logo. To have those be the first questions that pop into my head can be attributed to the success of ASAP. Living in Western North Carolina, it is easy to take for granted the abundance, commitment, and labeling of local food. Driving back from one of these trips it hit me… ASAP has enhanced the convenience of local food, and wouldn’t it be fun to build a menu around this concept?

What local farms are you sourcing from for the menu?

There are so many great farms in the area that choosing just a few to work with was extremely difficult. But this year I am sourcing from Imladris Farm, King Harvest Farm, Ten Acre Garden, BusyBee Farm, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Round Mountain Creamery, Yellow Branch Cheese, Inman Farms, and, of course, Sunburst Trout Farms. I am also using products from local food producers: Lusty Monk, Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon, and Fox Hill Meadery.

Care to tell us about Sunburst’s new Rainbow Trout Burger?

The best way to tell anyone about it is to come taste it on June 21st. The burger is unique in that we worked with Barry Nash, a Seafood Ingredient Specialist from North Carolina Sea Grant, a program of NCSU located in Morehead City, NC. This is the first time that Sunburst has actively collaborated with an outside organization in the development of one of our value-added products. The benefit of this approach is that that we were able to utilize Mr. Nash’s expertise in functional ingredients, and consumer taste panels to develop a distinctive product.

Why is local food important to you?

There are so many reasons that local food is important to me. For starters, it puts food on my family’s table both figuratively and literally. Working at Sunburst for the last eight years, I have really seen what a positive impact that the local food movement has made for everyone involved with our trout production. Local food has provided a means of opportunity for many individuals looking for a satisfying career, a way to feed their families, and a way to keep existing family farms in the family. Local food is also important to me for the sense of community that it fosters. I am not only getting the freshest, tastiest products, but also supporting the community of farmers and growers, and I am helping foster the commitment many of them have made. When I purchase local food, I can put a face with what I am purchasing and who is going to benefit from my purchase… or the smile on the face of a farmer.

Why is ASAP important to you?

From the first time I saw the “Local Food – Thousands of Miles Fresher” bumper sticker, I was inspired to find out more. The more I discovered, the more I liked. ASAP is important to me because as an organization it has:

- Broadened the awareness and access of local food in the region;

- Broadened the understanding of why local food is important to our region’s economy and health;

- Created user-friendly tools and programs to enhance that understanding  (i.e., the Local Food Guide and Wholesale Local Food Guide publications, events such as ASAP’s Business of Farming Conference, and training events from the Growing Minds Farm to School program).

Anything else you’d like to add?

Certainly I want to mention the value of educating the public on local food by way of the Asheville City Market. I know they process more EBT payments than any other farmers’ market in the Southeast, thereby reaching a wider range of economic abilities. Lastly, ASAP’s  Farm Tour has provided an avenue for many families to actually come and tour a wide range of farming operations, whereas they might never venture out to those same farms otherwise. These programs and their impacts can only continue if ASAP is able to continue doing its work.

 

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