Buying local ingredients has been more than just a way of business for the Miccosukee Root Cellar since its opening in November 2011.
Every ingredient used, all the way down to the salt, is natural, organic or locally sourced. The restaurant has stayed true to its roots by utilizing this farm-to-table technique.
There are plans to create a Miccosukee Root Cellar Farm to become a fully sustainable restaurant. However, the restaurant currently sources approximately 80 percent of its produce from 13 to 15 local farms.
Restaurant owner Ruben Fields said it is important to buy locally and hopes his restaurant will help express that to the community.
“One of our purposes is to provide a platform for community outreach and education so we can have our local surrounding community come in and learn about where their food comes from, how it’s grown and why certain farmers choose to grow it certain ways,” Fields said.
He added that buying food locally is good for the body as well as the environment, and that its impact is much greater than most people realize.
“You pay now or you pay later,” Fields said. “You support a healthy diet now, and you support a healthy ecology now, or you have to fight for it later.”
Fields has seen a positive impact on the community since his restaurant opened. He has noticed people walking and biking to the restaurant from nearby neighborhoods to meet with friends, which he said has been a highlight for him.
Working with farm fresh ingredients is different from frozen or internationally sourced ingredients, according to the restaurant’s chef, Matt Hagel, who has grown to appreciate the farmers and their fresh produce.
“It makes me care about every ingredient I grab,” Hagel said. “Usually, a truck pulls up; you get a case of peppers. Who cares? Now I understand what goes into farming, what goes into cultivation and harvesting and how much they care about the ingredients, and in turn, I care about them a lot.”
Hagel said the fresh produce makes his job as a chef much easier.
“I feel like I can do a lot less to the food,” he said. “I can let the food speak for itself.”
The Miccosukee Root Cellar’s farm-to-table plan has received positive feedback from customers. Jaimin Washington, a Tallahasee resident, has visited the dining facility on many occasions and said he enjoys going there because the food is fresh and makes him feel good.
“It’s always good to support the community,” Washington said. “I know that the food will be clean and healthy with no chemicals, unlike the stuff you find at most grocery stores.”