What does “organic” mean?
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows: Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
There are many ways to eat healthy. Advocates of organically grown food say it is safer to eat, more nutritious, and better tasting than non-organic. They also say that organic food production is better for the environment and kinder to animals. More and more people in Genesee County are looking more carefully at what they eat and believe it’s the best way to go. There are many local restaurants and stores that serve and/or sell organic food or food that is prepared with ingredients and produce that are grown locally or from suppliers who use organic practices. Here’s a look at what you can find in the area – plain, good food – that’s good for you!
The Grafted Root Eatery
It’s real food made real simple at The Grafted Root. “I use organic food when I can, but it’s tough to go completely organic,” says Michele Matthews, co-owner of the popular eatery. “Our main focus is to provide local produce and meats that are mindfully raised.” Michelle was a stay-at-home mom who always wanted to own her own restaurant. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother who made everything from scratch. All of the meals are home-cooked and her patrons are used to the fact that their orders are prepared when ordered – and they may have to wait a bit. But the wait is well worth it – food that is delicious, fresh, local, organic when possible, and mindfully sourced.
On the back of the Grafted Root menu is a list of 26 local suppliers who provide the restaurant with produce and food items: Slow Jams Jam in Grosse Pointe Woods; Grassfields Cheese in Cooperville, organic raw-milk cheeses; John Henry’s in Millington, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free meats; Britt Family Pure Maple Syrup in Tawas; and Beanies Java Jelly in Fenton, to name just a few. “Local doesn’t always mean organic,” Michele explains. “But most of my suppliers use organic practices; it just makes things taste better.”
Some of the favorite dishes include the Grafted Root Salad (Romaine with avocado, tomato, red onion, bleu cheese, dried cherries and fresh roasted nuts, served with house-made Ranch dressing), and French Toast (house-baked bread dipped in eggs with cinnamon and topped with Britt Family Maple Syrup). “Everyone loves my biscuits and gravy – a light and fluffy, homemade, Parmesan bacon biscuit topped with yummy gravy,” says the owner. Another to-die-for dish is trout from Sault St. Marie, topped with mango chutney. The menu includes many daily specials, as well.
Flint Crêpe Company / Table & Tap
There are other restaurants that place the same emphasis on serving food from suppliers that use organic practices, including Table & Tap and the Flint Crêpe Company, two very popular downtown eateries. “We take our food very seriously,” says Ryan Beuthin, co-owner of the Flint Crêpe Company. “We have recipe guidelines, rules we have set for ourselves.” Their guidelines include that their recipes will be: made from scratch, driven by the food that is currently available based on region and the time of year, sourced from growers and producers who operate their businesses ethically and responsibly, and offer something for everybody (i.e. meatless, gluten free).
At the Flint Crêpe Company, it is important that people “Know Your Food,” a motto written on the restaurant wall. And the simplest way to do that is to know what goes into it and trust where it comes from, Ryan explains. An example of this is the Chai Latte – the syrup is made from scratch with all organic-certified ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs. It is made in small batches to ensure freshness. “What we do goes beyond an ‘organic’ label,” says Ryan. “It takes your culinary experience to a whole new level.”
This same commitment to food is also found at Table & Tap, Ryan reports. All of their product vendors are local or in Michigan, including: Simple Times Food in Goodrich, and Green Stewards Urban Farm, Simply Salads, and Withers Mountain Honey Farm, all in Flint. Fresh produce and products from local producers are used to create delicious, seasonal menu items such as the T&T BLT – local tomato, lettuce, pickled onion, with bacon and pork belly, red chili mayo – a fine example of local food at its best.
Green Earth Grocer
This full-line grocery store sells all local, natural produce and products from farms that use organic practices. The meat is purchased from Michigan farms, including buffalo, elk, venison and more – all free of nitrates and preservatives, as well. In addition, the store has a good variety of gluten-free products, naturally flavored candies, teas, spices and herbs.
Dale’s Natural Foods
Dale’s Natural Foods has been serving Genesee County residents since 1947. The family-owned store offers a wide variety of organic groceries, dairy products, as well as local grass-fed beef and organic, free-range chicken. The vegetarian deli and juice bar provides healthy, delicious food made fresh daily, including soups, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and hot entrées.
The Local Grocer
Flint Farmers’ Market
Owned by Erin Caudell and Franklin Pleasant, The Local Grocer is a partnership of businesses that sells local produce and grocery items. “Our priority is making sure the food is good, we know who the growers are and how they grow it,” says Franklin.
Flint Farmers’ Market
Simply Salads sells fresh, local produce. One co-owner sells his certified organic produce there, and co-owner, Jim Kneebone, supplies some of the produce which he grows using organic practices. The produce is picked fresh the night before it is sold. They also offer certified organic and free-range eggs, maple syrup and honey. “There is a whole new level of consumer interest in organic products,” Jim reports. As a second-generation farmer, to him, “organic” is a philosophy as much as it is a growing method.
The Grainery Natural Grocery
Owned by Mike and Sue Beattie, The Grainery opened 1980 as the Flint area’s first organic grocery store. Everything on the shelves is organic, including organic, grass-fed beef, buffalo, venison, lamb, wild-caught fish, organic fruits and vegetables, dairy products and filtered, ionized water. Fresh and delicious organic food is served all day long – two soups, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and specialty salads, juices and smoothies – all prepared fresh daily. The Grainery does not sell any GMO food or foods with chemical preservatives or additives.
There’s no shortage of plain, good food in Greater Flint!
Photography by Eric Dutro