By MARY STARR
It seems like everyone is a food expert these days. With an abundance of food and nutrition programming available on television, Americans have become passionate about their food, and are particularly concerned about where it originates.
It’s fairly simple to ascertain, based on a number of recent conversations, that people care about where their food, whether it’s animal or vegetable, is grown, and how it’s treated during its lifespan. To no one’s surprise, this focus on food seems to be an outgrowth about the need to eat as healthfully as possible, while still enjoying delicious foods.
A little more than a year ago, restaurateur Zack Gowen, owner of Georgia Sea Grill, took the giant step of purchasing a former goat farm on Blythe Island to use as a source for sustainable and locally sourced produce.
With on-site caretaker Sam McPherson, who grew up learning farming on his grandfather’s farm in Nashville, Ga., the growing enterprise has big plans for the future. McPherson later worked in the farming industry, and met Zack
So far, harvests have yielded and are yielding an array of delicious, nutritious produce, that is brought to its peak each night by Chef Tim Lensch, including kale, tomatoes, peppers, arugula, spinach, lemongrass, rosemary, mint, Thai basil, lettuce, kohlrabi, garlic, King Richard leeks, cucumbers, squash, collards, beets, radishes, turnips, yellow chard, nasturtium, purple peas and Potlikker red peas, a popular and historically significant staple crop. There are crops of marigolds and sunflowers and fruit trees that include lemon, pomegranate, satsuma and pawpaw.
The 7 acre or so site is situated on a riverbank and includes some marsh. According to records, it was operated as vegetable farm until the 1980s, before its evolution into a goat farm, and now back to its original mission. Eventually McPherson met Gowen through the organic co-op he and his wife, April, were operating.
Today, a walk through Potlikker Farm is an idyllic experience. Its greenhouse teems with tomatoes and other veggies, its field fertile with its rows of leeks, turnips, beets and garlic flourishing and still more dirt waiting to be tilled and planted.
Growing at least a portion of their own food seems to fit the intent of Georgia Sea Grill, which has prided itself on carefully choosing its food purveyors over the years.
“We pretty much look for the smaller venue,” said Lensch. “Our New York strip comes from Brasstown Beef, near Blairsville.”
The bigger meat processors, Lensch said, don’t take care of their animals like the smaller farms do.
“They also provide better customer service,” said Gowen, long a proponent of local, clean food.
Becoming a certified organic farm requires a tremendous amount of government red tape, whereas Potlikker Farm chooses to follow a sustainable model.
“We prefer smaller, local food sources,” said McPherson. “You know where your food is coming from.”
On the medical side of things, Lisa Mason, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator at Southeast Georgia Health System, had some pointers for people to eat more healthfully while enjoying a varied diet of delicious foods.
People do like their fat and sugar, but Mason recommends reducing the amount of trans fat and saturated fat folks consume by including plant-based sources of protein — including soybeans, pinto beans, lentils and nuts.
“If you eat meat, select lean cuts of beef and pork, especially cuts with ‘loin’ or ‘round’ in their name,” she said. “Cut back on processed meats high in saturated fat, such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.”
Cooking methods, she said, should emphasize less frying, and more baking, broiling, roasting and stewing. Stir-frying is also an option. She also recommends draining the fat of cooked ground meat.
Overall, however, small steps, including picking one healthy suggestion from above and working on it until it becomes a habit, will help. Mason also recommends visiting ChooseMyPlate.gov for nutrition information and helpful hints.
As far as foods people should eat on a regular basis, Mason recommends consuming fish, berries, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, cruciferous vegetables and legumes.