All about us small farms are abound. The same can be said of restaurants that appeal to our pallets. It’s also probably safe to say that the flow of food between the two isn’t what it could be. In response, Muscoot Farm of Katonah, New York, Slow Food Westchester, The Westchester Land Trust and My Personal Farmers of Peekskill, New York hosted a speed networking event last week between chefs and local farmers. One, that hopefully facilitated an ongoing dialogue and puts local, healthier foods in front of us at our favorite food outlets.
As is, Slow Food’s Chris Roberts cites the main obstacle from the farmer’s side and the restaurants. Owning a busy restaurant doesn’t always afford the opportunity to surf the internet for an upstate New York farm and its produce, he says. On the other hand, when a food distributor shows up at your door and can easily provide the food you’re looking for, says Mr. Roberts, that’s the path of least resistance.
Playing directly into that problem is the general shy nature he found among farmers at a recent event hosted by the land trust. “I farm, here’s my lettuce,” he says is something that sounds simple enough, but these particular farmers expressed anxiousness about just approaching local restaurants.
Tying the two considerations together gave rise to the event. “You’re a farmer, you have food. You’re a restaurant owner, you serve food – so talk and see if you can make a deal,” he says was the main idea.
In five or seven minutes, that entails not only finding common ground between what the farmer grows and the chef cooks, but also embarking on new possibilities for each. Is there something similar to what I grow that you want, might say the farmer. While on the other end, a chef could be looking for something different to excite his latest sauce and a new crop is then sprung in the farmer’s field.
Still, a spike in flavor might not translate to the dictates of the market – especially if customers leave with a lighter load in their wallets. Dispelling the misconception that locally produced food means higher prices, he says, you’re going straight to the farmer and cutting out the expense of intermediaries. As a result, he adds, “If you’re willing to submit to buying in certain volumes at certain time tables, I’m sure you can negotiate a competitive rate.”
Of course, consumers who already frequent the farmers’ markets at Muscoot don’t have to be sold on things like healthier eating or reduced carbon footprints, so he offers a little pragmatism for the rest of us. “Conversations that we have about our policies and things we believe in tend to be a little wonky, but at the end of the day,” he says, “it’s about eating delicious food at a fair price.”
Additionally, buying foods locally means building a stronger economy and raising the quality of life for our entire community. The good business health of local farmers increases the tax base and the money flow stays within rather than moving out to far off factory farms.
Hoping this event is a hit and leads to more, he also hopes raised awareness can put a smiling face on other local food initiatives that may seem foreign to some. So in finding a Slow Food Westchester, The Westchester Land Trust or My Personal Farmers, he says, you’ll feel like there’s a friendly voice out there that can finally get you to the local farmers market or among other like minded people in your community.
Rich Monetti interview of Chris Roberts