Healing With Local Foods: Tracy Singleton of the Birchwood Cafe

This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Live Green Twin Cities. To read the entire article, click here.

Tracy Singleton has been a key player in the local food movement since she opened Minneapolis’ Birchwood Café in 1995. The Birchwood, a key part of the Seward neighborhood’s thriving local, sustainable food scene, has an eclectic menu that satisfies hippies and hipsters, vegetarians and carnivores alike.

I’m a big fan of breakfast at the Birchwood, which includes awesome granola, waffles, tofu scrambles, and house-made sausage. To be fair, lunch and dinner are just as good, with all sorts of burgers, salads, soups, pizzas and other options, best washed down with a local beer. And be sure to save room for the key lime pie, my favorite in town.

I recently had a chance to ask Tracy a few questions about her business, the local food scene, and how she continues to serve great, local food.

Lee: What does local food mean to you? 

Tracy: My introduction to local foods was traveling in Greece in my early 20s, staying at a farm and eating fresh yogurt and vegetables. To this day I remember eating a simple salad - cucumber, tomato, and feta - so fresh I couldn’t believe how good it was. Then I went to Spain and ate fresh-caught fish, local olives, and garden fresh greens.

When I came back to Minnesota, I got a job at Lucia’s and I learned that local food existed at home, too. When I started the Birchwood, I started to build and nurture my own relationships with local farmers and suppliers, and I knew I could never go back. When I’m passionate and excited about something, I have to share it with as many people as will listen. So here I am, almost 14 years later, still doing the same thing - sharing my passion for local foods and those who bring them to us.

Lee: How much of your food is purchased directly from local farms? Does that change by season?

Tracy: From the height of growing season through late summer harvest we buy about 80 to 85% of our purchases locally. Even in the summer, some of our produce comes from distributors, like Bix and Co-op partners [these companies work with local producers who don’t have their own distribution]. Right now all of our vegetables, and as much local fruit we can get are local. All of our dairy, eggs, meat, pork, poultry, flour, black beans, corn chips, oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, maple syrup, and honey are local year-round.

In the winter we get our produce from outside of the region, but thanks to some crafty farmers and greenhouses, we can still get local produce like micro-greens year round. We use a lot of local store crops in winter too - beets, squash, and potatoes. We try to stock up and freeze as much as we can when certain crops are in abundance, like corn, tomatoes, berries, and rhubarb.

This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Live Green Twin Cities. To read the entire article, click here.

This post was proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.