Miriam Natsuti had always thought she and her family were eating healthy food: lots of fruits, lots of vegetables and balanced meals to round out what looked like a week grounded in good nutrition.
Then, she saw the movie "Food Inc." – and realized she had some learning to do.
The 2008 documentary film, directed by Robert Kenner, documents food production across the United States, and what Natsuti saw " had a huge impact on me," she said.
"I just was shocked," Natsuti said.
The film was the call to action for Natsuti and her family to change the way they eat, a journey that eventually inspired her to make the same effort for Loudoun County residents via "Farm to Fork Loudoun," an 11-day event that pairs farmers and chefs with brewers, distillers and sommeiliers and allows them to showcase their local ingredients and talents.
Throughout the week, which began July 26 and runs through Sunday, chefs pledge to use only produce, dairy and meat from local farmers, creating recipes that also pair with beer, wine and spirits from local companies.
In its second year, the week has grown to include 22 restaurants, 21 farmers and five beverage companies.
And "the energy is just as high," Natsuti said.
Before she began to plan the event, Natsuti first set out to change her family's own habits. The first: Buying "stock" in a cow, which allowed her to take home half of the animal each year directly from the farm, ordering cuts of the meat and freezing it so it stretches over the course of several months.
"You just can't believe the difference [in how it tastes]," she said. "And it lasts a long time."
She purchases a dozen eggs each week from Waterford Farm and joined a CSA. She's still looking for a good source of local chicken and other meats, but buys those from the organic section of Costco.
"It's so neat," she said. "What's great about eating local is it's so nutrient dense ... I'm losing weight because you just dont eat as much because it doent have all the fillers conventional food has."
Natsuti, who drew on her years of experience in planning and marketing to pull together the events, said it took her about 10 months to get participants on board, recruit sponsors, raise money and set up partnerships that allow both farmers and chefs to flourish throughout the week.
To participate, restaurants, wineries, distilleries and breweries pay $500 each. Each farmer pays $150.
But the contribution that counts the most, Natsuti said, is how much excitement each of them brings to the table -- and to diners that, with luck, will bring home some new habits of their own.
"They're very supportive," Natsuti said. "It's just a joy."
Farm to Fork Loudoun 2012 runs through Sunday. For participating restaurants, click here.