durango mexican food

About Linda's Local Food Café

Linda’s Local Food Café is now a reality! To our customers, thank you a million times for listening to me ramble about my dreams, for adding your ideas, and for continuing to support us through the changes. To the local farmers, thank you for choosing to farm, in spite of all of the headaches and heartaches that come with it. You are an inspiration, and the fruit of your hard labor is one of the joys of my life.

My journey started 10 years ago with a Durango-style summer job at the farmers market.  It has grown into owning a place that offers wholesome food, or “real food.” This phrase resonates with me as it says it all: food that is not full of empty calories or chemicals, food that will nourish your body as it is made from natural ingredients and, hopefully, food that will make you happy as you eat it, because it is tasty.

I am committed to helping increase the income of our farmers.  There is a selfish reason for that – I want to be able to have local food to cook because the quality is so superior to the goods that have travelled 1500-plus miles and are a few weeks old at best!

However it is more complex than that. Over the last 10 years I have, to my dismay, seen many farmers quit. Although their reasons were multiple, often there was a common answer: extremely hard work and not enough money. I know that going into farming is a choice, much like mine to become a small restaurant owner, so it should be their problem for choosing it in the first place, right? Yet, it is also my problem. In a world that appears headed towards a shortage of petroleum, which is the basis for production and transportation of most of our food, local farmers represent our future source of food. 

Some statistics about farming have made me think. The average age of farmers is over 55. Less than 6% of farmers are age 35 or younger.  Why should young people go into farming if it does not offer them enough money to pay their bills, let alone to buy the goods that many of us consider part of the benefit of living in this country? If we do not have young people going into farming, what will happen when farming knowledge disappears with our aging farmers? Who will grow food for us?

There is also lots of information regarding loss of farm land to development and about how industrial agriculture is harming our water, depleting and destroying the soil, hurting wildlife and hurting us due to high levels of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are accumulating in our bodies and causing myriad illnesses. A growing number of my customers (including more children) and loved ones have been diagnosed with various health problems, many of which can be traced back to food.  M.D. Anderson clinic has acknowledged the link between various cancers and diet. As a farmer friend said: “We have designed these fungicides, pesticides and herbicides to kill. They go on the plants that we eat and end up in our bodies and we are surprised that we are getting sick?”

All of this started me questioning what I was doing at Cocina Linda. Where was the money that we were spending on produce going? What was I doing to contribute to a more sustainable food future for my community? Was I serving the healthiest food possible to our customers who have supported us for so long? What would I say to my 11 nieces and nephews in a few years, if I had done nothing to support local farmers and encourage young people to go into farming? Was I simply going to wait until we had a serious food shortage or until the price of goods skyrocketed? What about the farmers? They are my friends and I owe the start of the restaurant to the farmers market.

Thus, the restaurant is changing along with my perspective. I have resolved to adapt the menu to what is available seasonally, to find ways to buy excess produce at peak season (think zucchini!) and store it for later use. I am creating partnerships of mutual benefit with some farmers to produce value-added goods they can sell. I’m planning special dinners at the restaurant for the smaller farms and we have remodeled to create a way for the farmers to reach out to the community. This will hopefully create a greater awareness about who our farmers are and where our food comes from.

Finally, as Gabe Eggers said, “for every 100 dollars that you spend in a local independent business it creates 40 dollars of increased wealth in the community, because of the number of times that money circulates. If you buy from a chain it only produces 14 dollars, as the money leaves the community that much faster.” This made me think that if I buy locally, it also makes us all wealthier!

The restaurant has changed its name to Linda’s Local Food Café and our mission statement is: We are committed to contributing to making our community healthier and wealthier by serving real food and doing everything we can to directly support local farmers.

I hope you are able to visit us and that you enjoy the changes to the restaurant and the food. Thank you for helping us to support our local farmers!

Linda's Local Food Café in the Press

Following are some local press releases / news stories on Linda's Local Food Café:

Linda's Local Food Café As seen in the Four Corners Business Journal 

Linda's Local Food Café As seen in the Durango Herald 

Linda's Local Food Café As seen in Durango Telegraph July 16, 2009 

Linda's Local Food Café As seen in Durango Herald July 9, 2008 

Inside Durango TV Segments on "Durango Cooks" featuring Linda's Local Food Café

Durango Cooks welcomes Linda Illsley of Linda's Local Food Café. Part 1, Nov 2009.

Durango Cooks welcomes Linda Illsley of Linda's Local Food Café. Part 2, Nov 2009.

Durango Cooks welcomes Linda Illsley of Linda's Local Food Café. Part 3, Nov 2009.

Durango Cooks welcomes Linda Illsley of Linda's Local Food Café. Part 4, Nov 2009.

Linda's Local Food Café Facebook Fan Page