Local Burger, Global impact

Sundance Channel series offers food for thought

Chowing down on a hamburger and potatoes, Levi Booth, 2, makes a face at Local Burger, 714 Vt. The restaurant, which sells locally grown organic food, will be the focus of a new TV program series debuting on the Sundance Channel featuring earth-conscious programming.

Lawrence, get ready to see your green side.

Film crews from the Sundance Channel arrived Tuesday night to begin two days of filming the folks and the food at Lawrence’s Local Burger, 714 Vt., for a new series of earth-conscious programming to debut in April.

“I thought Local Burger would be a great example,” Lawrence transplant Simran Sethi said. Sethi, a veteran of the eco-friendly Web site Treehugger.com, will host the block of programming.

The series, called “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” will span 13 episodes with each showing viewers how some use their businesses and activities to help to make the environment better.

Local Burger will be featured in an episode called “Eat.” All episodes will be a part of a three-hour, primetime block of programming called “The Green,” featuring documentaries and original series about the Earth’s ecology and “green” living.

Treehugger.com has been consulting with actor/director/producer Robert Redford on the programs for about a year, Sethi said.

The filming will begin today at the home of Local Burger owner Hilary Brown, then follow her to the shop for some lunch-rush filming and interviews.

Brown said she heard in December from producers, who asked for a press packet about the restaurant.

“So I was like: ‘What’s a press packet?'” Brown quipped.

Jessica Thompson drizzles balsamic vinaigrette onto a roasted veggie salad as Clinton Jackson watches the grill at Local Burger. The restaurant will be the focus of a Sundance Channel TV show.

A short time later, Sundance Channel folks replied, saying they’d like Local Burger to be a part of the show.

Sethi mentioned the restaurant, which features locally grown and organic burgers, salads and meals, during story-consulting for the series.

“I pushed hard for them to come to Kansas because of the wealth of farmers and amazing resources in the state,” Sethi said.

The film crew today will also follow local meat producer Debbie Yarnell and her Homespun Hill farm near Baldwin City. Yarnell will prepare meat for Local Burger’s Meat Market, where producers can sell locally grown meat directly to consumers.

The market will run from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. today.

Thursday, producers will begin shooting “Localize Me,” Local Burger’s spin-off of the documentary “Supersize Me.”

Where Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me” featured Spurlock subjecting himself to a fast-food-only diet for a month, this version will feature Lawrence resident Daniel Fisher’s quest to break his fast-food habit and get healthier by eating Local Burger meals for the next month.

Brown and others have already filmed some of the prospective show’s first scenes, including Fisher getting examined by local physicians David Dunlap and Farhang Khosh to evaluate his current health.

“It was just like your basic physical, a general health assessment. I know that I’m not in the best shape,” Fisher said.

Although “Localize Me” hasn’t yet been picked up by the channel, Fisher said film crews will film the first bites of his quest, sitting at a table in Local Burger.

“I just hope to improve my health overall, get my blood pressure down,” said Fisher, 29.

Regardless of what happens to “Localize Me,” Brown said she hopes the Sundance Channel programming will show people a fun side to environmental issues – something she said is often lacking from the debate.

“I think it will be looking at new things we can do that are positive,” Brown said. “My hope for the show is that in a fun and interesting way, it will educate people.”

“The Green” will premiere at 8 p.m. April 17.