Not unlike a lot of people, I use my weekends to support my hobbies. And sustainable agriculture is one of them. This is well established enough that FERN, the Farm Education Resource Network, has tapped me to help get their message out and support them anyway I can - and I’m happy to do it.
So head’s up Tucson. And go eat downtown at Proper - who’s supporting FERN throughout 2014.
Read this terrific synopsis about what FERN & Proper are about, and also what their aiming to accomplish.
First published on DowntownTucson.org, January 22, 2014
by James J. Jefferies
The early 21st century finds us putting more thought than ever before into what comes across our plates. Not simply a matter of eating healthfully, but in terms of people questioning where the food came from, and by what processes was the food raised or grown. Horror stories of lessened USDA oversight, fast food misadventures in bacteria, and rising concerns over genetically-modified seed crops have placed new premiums on information pertaining to an easily traceable, local point of origin for what we’re eating.
The Downtown Tucson food scene has already seen a rise in restauranteurs responding to this kind of demand, offering a variety of dishes with meats, poultry, and produce sourced from a number of in-state farmers. At the forefront of this movement would be the fine folks at Proper Tucson, whose owner, Paul Moir, is bullish on the sustainable local food movement. “I grew up with a Mom who was a tremendous cook,” said Moir, “…and we weren’t on a farm by any means, but we gardened a lot, and grew a lot of food.”
Already a well-received fixture nestled firmly at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Congress Street, Proper has designs on not only bringing you their great menu of American-style spins on classic dishes and trendy favorites, made solely from locally-sourced meat, dairy, and produce, but also has plans in the works to extend that outreach via an alliance with FERN, the Farm Education Resource Network. Developed by Tina Bartsch and Debbie Weingarten, FERN’s mission is to sow the seeds for the future of agriculture in Arizona, by offering apprenticeship and scholarship programs to young people with an interest in farming. “Beyond the food side of this,” said Moir, “…is really an attempt to rebuild local economies. When you spend locally, versus spending money with national chains, you see so much more of a direct impact when that money stays at home.”
The brand new Proper Meatery will be like Sam the Butcher, bringin’ Alice the meat. Shake your…rump roast?
The first fruit yielded by this alliance is the forthcoming “Cash Mob” kick-off event, taking place on this Thursday evening, January 23rd. Proper has pledged 1% of their cash sales throughout 2014 to fund FERN’s apprenticeship program, and this kickoff event will allow Proper diners to have a meet-and-greet cocktail reception with the participating farmers. Guests are encouraged to dine at their leisure and, of course, use cash. This is a prime opportunity for people to sample some of Proper’s excellent fare, and to help support a cause that is very much in line with the locally-minded spirit of Downtown Tucson’s revival.
Further evidence of Proper Tucson’s locavore mission can be found in the immediate space between them and (like-minded) neighbor Diablo Burger. It is in this very spot that later this year will bring forth the brand new Proper Meatery, slated to open sometime in September. Downtown has long been in need of additional grocery options, and this new retail storefront will bring about a terrific source for people living in the area to acquire fantastically fresh meats and charcuterie from a bevy of small farms across Arizona. “Our vision is for a 100% locally sourced, whole animal butchery… for wholesale to restaurants and the retail end as well,” said Moir. “We’ll offer charcuterie and prepared foods to go with that.” With socially-conscious restauranteurs like Paul Moir building their menus on great-tasting locally-sourced food, these are very interesting times to be a food enthusiast living in the Old Pueblo! For more, check out Proper’s homepage, as well as that of the Farm Education Resource Network. Proper is located at 300 E. Congress Street.