Farmers, chefs have chance to meet

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Farmers and chefs now have the opportunity to meet, connect for business, and ultimately create an official statewide alliance. The Tennessee Farm and Restaurant Alliance will serve as a hub for farm-to-foodservice relationships and for information about issues related to farm and food business.

To become an alliance member, a farmer or food service professional must attend one of four free workshops to be held across Tennessee and apply to participate in the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Pick Tennessee Products program. Pick Tennessee Products will serve as the umbrella program linking farms and food services to each other and to the consumers eager for local food experiences. Pick Tennessee Products has provided its free service to connect farmers, farmers markets and local food makers to consumers since 1986.

Once the new Tennessee Farm and Restaurant Alliance is formed, Pick Tennessee Products will add a new consumer service to its Website and mobile app: a listing with GPS mapping to restaurants committed to using local and farm-direct products whenever possible.

Allan Benton is the owner of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams near Knoxville and a longtime Pick Tennessee Products member. He calls the new alliance a great idea. "We have a lot of young, entrepreneurial farmers and highly talented chefs who are trying to be a part of this movement. It's all about quality," Benton said. "Those of us who have grown up in Tennessee have always lived farm to table. It was a way of life. It's just that now the rest of the nation is catching up to us. There's no doubt that we are at the forefront of the local food movement."

Particularly known for his bacon and domestic prosciutto, Benton was recently named to the 2015 Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America. The James Beard Foundation gives that honor annually to five people who have made a significant and unique contribution to the American food and beverage industry.

The first Tennessee Farm and Restaurant Alliance workshop is scheduled to be held in Knoxville on September 28, at the UT Conference Center. Another workshop will be held in Memphis on October 12, and the third workshop will be in Nashville on November 2. The final workshop is scheduled for November 16 in Chattanooga. To register to attend a free workshop, email

For more information on the Tennessee Farm and Resaurant Alliance, visit or contact TDA Processed & Gourmet Foods Marketing Specialist Linda Shelton at 615-837-5345 or

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