A local app-etite State program helps you find restaurants that use area foods

Richard Barlion from The Grocery made a charcuterie plate from local hogs and a pickled plate of cucumbers, okra and green tomatoes.

Grace Beahm

The state Department of Agriculture has launched a new app to get more South Carolina produce on dinner plates and help the fortunes of farmers and restaurateurs.

Fresh on the Menu, an app created by the department, offers the chance to see which restaurants are using at least 25 percent locally grown products.

“South Carolina has a lot of really great restaurants, and it also has a lot of wonderful farms that supply fresh and tasty agricultural products,” said Kelly Coakley, SCDA public information director. “This Fresh on the Menu app will help people make the farm-to-table connection and give our state’s farmers better exposure for more market opportunities.”

The app, free to download when accessing the Fresh on the Menu website on a mobile device, divides into four functions: restaurants, chefs, roots and recipes. All the restaurants in the area committed to using locally grown products, as well as the people preparing it, where it comes from and how to do it at home, all will be a few swipes away.

The program is a new phase of the Certified South Carolina program in which the agriculture department has worked with producers and retailers in promoting in-state products.

“South Carolina has become a culinary destination, due largely to the excellence of restaurants such as yours,” SCDA Commissioner Hugh Weathers wrote in a letter to restaurant owners. “As one of our state’s leading restaurateurs, I would like to invite you to renew or begin a partnership with our state’s farmers.”

So far, about 50 restaurants in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties are Fresh on the Menu registered members. Beaufort, Charleston and Richland counties had the highest concentration of participating restaurants.

Finding his passion for food on a farm in Starr, Christian Watson, executive chef at Carter’s Kitchen in Mount Pleasant, learned the plight of the common farmer.

“Living the life of a farmer, I understand that the majority of everything that’s produced comes from these small farmers,” he said.

At Jacob’s Kitchen, between 35 percent and 45 percent of the products used, ranging from eggs to fish, are from local producers.

“It’s all about putting the money back in the pocket of local farmers,” Watson said.

Billy Quinn, son of John B. Quinn of J.B.’s Smokeshack on Johns Island, says the restaurant buys most of its meat locally, along with vegetables and fruits from Limehouse Produce. Quinn estimates that 60 percent of what the restaurant uses is purchased within the community.

“My personal thought is you have to take care of your own,” Quinn said. “As local businesses, if we don’t buy from each other and keep the money local, corporate will buy you out. The quality is better.”