Mediaplanet: You’re a big proponent of supporting local. What are the benefits of doing this that consumers may not always be conscious of?
Michael Smith: To me, supporting local comes down to one exact thing: it’s about people — knowing your neighbours and your community, reaching out and supporting them in the best way possible, and voting with your dollars. Knowing the stories behind the food you eat is essential.
Supporting local is something we’ve always done.We’ve always reached out into our backyards, and that’s ultimately what cuisine really is; it’s when you know their stories. It’s part of our value set and, ultimately, who we are. Understanding this reminds us that we have hard-working farmers, fisher folk, and culinary artists — it’s especially important to be conscious of that and to be a good neighbour.
Today, we’re simultaneously becoming hyper-local and hyper-globalized. Globalism is good for Canadian farmers as well! In our export-oriented market, we produce far more here in PEI than we would consume on the island. Our farmers are perfectly happy to be globalized especially when it benefits them, and it often does. As Canadian consumers, we can respect that by taking the time to find those local sources and support them.
There seems to be a disconnect between the average consumer and where their food comes from, especially with dairy products. How important is it to you to bridge this gap?
The Inn At Bay Fortune isn’t a normal restaurant. We connect the consumer with the source every step of the way. Consumers these days often don’t take the time to know where their food comes from, and this can have negative effects. Engaging consumers is a huge part of my business and my world. I set out deliberately to bring awareness and make an express point to help people understand the work and effort of our world. We grow everything we serve. We just won the Best Farm To Table restaurant award — we know how we serve our guests.
We do a farm tour on our 10-acre organic farm where customers learn how the farm works. We then continue to our fire garden, our outdoor event space, then we all come in together at 7 o’clock to sit down at our long communal table. This creates a perfect opportunity to connect our guests to where their food comes from — since we grow everything they eat. PEI is the perfect place to come and connect with your food and learn about authentic food stories.
I believe that food is at it’s best when it’s personal — when we know the people who farm and grow the food, and when we know the people who serve it.