FAIRfest panel focuses on sustainability

Sunday's FAIRfest panel discussed sustainability in cooking, business, gardening and farming.

As part of FAIRfest 2013, a weekend of events focused on sustainable solutions and community empowerment, a panel of experts gathered Sunday morning to speak on how everyone and anyone can incorporate sustainability into their lives.

The panel included Matt Steigerwald, owner of the Lincoln Cafe and Lincoln Wine Bar in Mount Vernon. Steigerwald said his business revolves around a sustainable thesis; using sustainable meat, dairy and other products that were grown close to home and utilizing a system that saves food waste. It may take a little more effort, but sustainability brings bountiful rewards and is something anyone can do.

"Right now, cheap asparagus, cheap strawberries, cheap lettuces and spinach, right at the farmer's market, most likely very close to where you live," Steigerwald said. "So that makes it easier and I think if you dive in and just try that for a week, if you have no experience with it, I think you'll see that it's easier. Like a lot of things, taking that first step for people is always hard, but I think once you do it, it becomes easier than you think."

Residents of Fairfield and Jefferson County have always been leaders in sustainability, and one was another panelist.

"I've been growing food organically in Jefferson County for about 18 years," said Jefferson County resident Dean Goodan. "I was one of the first people to put up a greenhouse about 16, 17 years ago and grow organic vegetables in it rather than just potted plants and flowers. I did in soil organic vegetable production. My ex-wife and I we started a restaurant and we incorporated the locally grown food into that."

The bottom line is, if you buy local, dedicate a little extra time and energy and support your local farmers, the sustainable movement will continue to grow. As chefs and business owners like Steigerwald take advantage of local producers and materials and realize there is a more environmentally-friendly way of doing business, the movement will flourish.

"Every day, it's been getting more and more prevalent and popular due to... they found out they have a choice," said Carl Blake of Rustik Rooster Farms in Ionia, Iowa. "And now that chefs know that they have a choice, they're going crazy for it."

For more on FAIRfest, click here.