Sustain Yourself With or Without an Organic White House Garden

Before Barack Obama was elected, sustainable food advocates across the country were pushing for an organic White House garden, which seemed to some like a Marie Antoinette moment. A "let them eat organic" in the middle of a flailing economy when people w

Before Barack Obama was elected, sustainable food advocates across the country were pushing for an organic White House garden, which seemed to some like a Marie Antoinette moment. A “let them eat organic” in the middle of a flailing economy when people were losing their jobs and couldn’t put food on their tables.

But the movement was more about going sustainable than going organic. Last week, when Michelle Obama broke ground on the first White House garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden, she did it to promote healthy eating and locally grown food. Not a bad idea in a recession, and certainly not impractical or chichi. Eating local keeps money in the local economy and increases profits for local farmers.

The move was really a wake-up call to the country to start eating sustainably, and it made me think of all the ways we can do that here. With 24 farmers’ markets and several restaurants that buy local, we’re luckier than some cities. So if you want to dine and shop sustainably, consider all your options.

A lot of independently owned cafes and coffee houses use locally grown or prepared food whenever possible. Some of the best are Iris BookCafé (where my CityBeat colleague Anne Mitchell noted that the bread is from Shadeau Bakery, the meat is from Avril’s and the ice cream is from Aglamesis), Norwood’s The Speckled Bird (which buys locally roasted coffee and other products) and Northside’s Melt (which always features a bundle of the most alive, unprocessed and local ingredients humanly possible, not to mention that the bread is, once again, from Shadeau and the desserts that aren’t homemade are from Take the Cake).

On the pricier side, if you’re looking for a nice evening out, Northside’s Slims is committed to offering locally grown and prepared foods, some from owner Patrick McCafferty’s small farm and greenhouse. Meanwhile, Nectar offers a fresh, seasonal menu with locally produced meats, vegetables, eggs and cheeses when they can. Right now, you can get a sweet potato gnocchi, sautéed with local organic shiitake and oyster mushrooms, organic Swiss chard and goat cheese fondue. Need I say more?

If that doesn’t suit you, head to Lavomatic, Chalk Food Wine, Greenup Café or Jean-Ro Bistro. All of Martin and Marilyn Wade’s restaurants try to offer locally grown or produced food whenever possible, and Marilyn Wade is a longtime member of Cincinnati Locavore, an organization devoted to eating local. Also, the menu at Virgil’s Cafe, which just opened in Bellevue, includes locally sourced food and wine.

If you’re looking for an emphasis on organic, the relatively new organic Wildlflower Café in Mason and the brand new Basilico Organic (also in Mason) are the places to go. Basilico is the first USDA-certified organic restaurant in the Midwest and one of the first in the nation, meaning that every ingredient in every dish on the menu was raised and harvested in an organic environment and is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A monumental task. Add to that the fact that they also try to buy locally, and you wonder how they find time to run a restaurant. But they do, and do it well.

We’re lucky to have Findlay Market open year-round, where we can buy locally produced meats, cheeses and fruits and vegetables — everything we need to survive, including chocolate. But we also have 23 other farmers’ markets, from Hyde Park to Wyoming, that sell everything from local goat cheese, pasta, honey and European breads to fresh greens, fruits and vegetables. Most open in May or June, although some open as early as this month. Find every market, their vendors and their hours at

Happy conscious shopping.

CONTACT HEATHER SMITH: [email protected]

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.