Tag Archives: Farm-to-Table

Farm to Table_Cows

Farm to Table: What is it?

The Farm to Table concept has taken the restaurant industry by storm the last few years. But what exactly does it mean? Farm to Table is the process of purchasing food that has been locally grown directly from the farmers who grew it. The purpose is for restaurants to use fresher ingredients that are more environmentally friendly and also help the local economy at the same time.


The GoodFarm to Table_Vegetables

The Farm to Table concept has many advantages including health and local economic benefits, being environmentally friendly, and helping the restaurant’s bottom line.

Over the last few decades, there has been a growing disconnect of knowledge about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Instead, foods are losing their quality at the expense of quantity after being dosed in chemicals to make “giant” foods. Farm to table eateries are aiming to fight against this new normal in the food industry to provide great dishes made of ingredients that customers know their origins. While not all farm to table partnerships are organically grown, buying directly from local farmers allows restaurants to grow relationships directly with the growers to ensure that their produce and meats are being grown in a way they approve.

When it comes to farm to table operations, animals to be used for meat are also grown for quality instead of quantity. The meats that yield from these animals have less fat and calories and at the same time have higher amounts of fatty acids, vitamin E and other important nutrients. Farm to table restaurants also often have a greater focus on vegetables, allowing restaurants to offer more well-rounded meals between the higher quality meats and the larger focus on vegetables.

As increasingly more restaurants utilize small farmers to support their operations, those farmers are in-turn able to create sustainable operations, lowering the cost of the food and eventually helping the restaurant’s bottom line. Creating a paradox to the reason foods began to be mass produced and genetically modified in the first place.


The Bad

Farm to Table_ VegetablesWhile farm to table operations boast many wonderful benefits, there will always be challenges. Some believe that the concept, as well as the foodies supporting the concept are taking it to extremes. In fact, ads have been created to show just how extreme it has been taken.

Being dedicated to purchasing meats locally can be very limiting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture limits the amount and type of meat that can processed by small farm operations. This fact and the geographical challenges of landlocked states not being able to offer sea foods, etc. may cause headaches for restaurant owners.

An additional challenge that restaurant owners will face is being able to source their produce in the off season. It is recommended to discuss with your partnered farmer about the use of a greenhouse to be able to offer this produce in the off-season. Otherwise, it may be difficult to find Indiana sweet corn under all of that snow in the middle of January!

However, all in all, we are loving the farm to table concept.


Indianapolis Farm to Table Restaurants

Traders Point Creamery

Grilled Cheese from Traders Point Creamery

Indiana has a rich agriculture landscape, which makes it the perfect location for the farm to table concept! Are you in the Indianapolis area? Try out these fantastic farm to table restaurants!

Supplies and Equipment

Searching for the farm to table “look” to go along with your processes? We have you covered! From glasses to chairs and tables, Central Restaurant is your one-stop shop for supplies and equipment!

Benefits for Foodservices to Go Local with Food

A few weeks ago, we provided an introduction to restaurants going local with food with Jeffrey Besecker, executive chef of Ozro & Ray’s and executive director of Greenville Community Gardens  in Greenville, Ohio.

While local food tops some trend lists, perhaps it’s not a trend at all, but something that’s here to stay.  Going local has benefits for both an establishment and a community.

Whether you would like to make drastic changes, or just would like to make a few minor tweaks, there are a variety of ways to go local at your foodservice establishment.

Besecker’s Benefits for Going Local

1. Know Products First-Hand: Buying local provides a more thorough understanding of the quality, care and contents of your ingredients.

2. Reduced Food Miles: The expenses to have food delivered to your establishment will be lower with local suppliers.  Also, your customers will be provided with a fresher meal.

3. Safer Food: Buying food locally allows for a more accurate ability to deter the inclusion of by-products and additives that can lead to detrimental health issues and side effects. (For instance… ever heard of a little thing called pink slime?)

4. Shorter Supply Lead Times: Shorter lead times reduce the cost associated with stocking food.  Why? By reducing storage needs, you will be able to keep fewer foods in reserve and can have more frequent deliveries.

5. Reduced Impact on the Environment: Buying local will decrease the amount of time the food coming to you will be on the road. This will reduce the amount of strain placed on the environment to supply that food.  Also, potentially harmful side effects will be eliminated as many of the processing procedures associated with long term food handling will be done away with.

6. Stimulate Your Local Economy: If you pump more money into your local economy, you are effectively ensuring those around you have the resources to patronize your business with a greater frequency.

Turn “I Can’t” into “I Can”

It’s easy to make assumptions or excuses for why it might be too difficult for a foodservice to go local. But there’s a challenge to everything and sometimes a certain challenge isn’t as challenging as one might think.

Besecker said the first excuse foodservices make as to why they can’t go local is time and effort.

“The foodservice industry is often already a very labor and time intensive endeavor,” he said. “The added burden of providing yet another link in that food supply chain is a distinct possibility but no more so then researching the lowest cost, best quality provider in a more traditional supply chain.”

He added that in the end, it all comes down to the amount of energy you feel comfortable utilizing and how that cost and out pour is managed within your business model.

“With a small investment, one can easily find the means to capitalize on a local food chain to great benefit.”

A second hurdle that turn many foodservices off to the idea of going local is foodservice regulations and restrictions of locally sourced food.

Besecker said one concern may be whether or not local, state or national health codes restrict the use of local foods.

“Nearly all the same rules apply in utilizing locally-sourced foods as well as those governing their safe handling,” he said. “In most cases, a greater sense of security in the quality and safety of the local foods exists merely because of a more thorough attention to their growing and handling.”

How Your Restaurant Can Go Local

According to Besecker, there are several levels of involvement in which a foodservice can go local.  So whether it be big or small, if you are interested in going local, there is a way.

1.Traditional Food Suppliers: After realizing the importance of local, Besecker said many of the traditional food wholesale suppliers have adopted locally sourced product lines to include with their other typical foodservice offerings.

2. Local Food Wholesalers: Cut out the number of miles and potential “middle men.”

3. Farmers Markets: These provide fresh, locally-grown foods that Besecker said can often be brought right near your delivery dock or even right to your location.

4. Local Farmers: For many instances, a solid farm operation is never too far away–even in larger cities. In fact, Besecker said New York City foodservice operations rely more per capita on local farms than any other food service market in the country!

Image: Greenville Community Gardens5. Community Gardens: Grow along with your neighbors and customers.  It can help benefit your bottom line and also the way your customers view food.  Working with community gardens can even help your customers set new standards for their own way of life.

6. Restaurant Gardens and Farms: Many restaurants have created their own garden or farm to help supplement their food supply.

(Image at left provided by Greenville Community Gardens).

Big thanks to Jeff Besecker with providing such great information on how foodservices can go local with food.  If you missed the first blog, read it here and also check out Greenville Community Gardens and Ozro’s & Rays.



An Introduction to Restaurants Going Local with Food

Image: Greenville Community Gardens

Local food was on the top of many food and restaurant trend lists for 2011 and 2012, but perhaps this isn’t a trend at all.  From buying locally to actually growing food, the emphasis for restaurants has been higher.

This week we worked with Jeffrey Besecker, executive chef of Ozro & Ray’s and executive director of Greenville Community Gardens (GCH) in Greenville, Ohio to learn more about going local and how restaurants can benefit from it.

Why Go Local?

“A return to a local food system may not just be the latest fad, or merely jumping on the band wagon,” Besecker said. “It may very well be the wave of the 21st century as well as a necessity for survival.”

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Cost (supply chain), quality control (increased freshness, improved taste), sustainability and marketability are Besecker’s reasons for restaurants going local.

“One of the chief reasons to “Go Local” may well be the increase in marketability in your product line or business,” he said. “An area that is often overlooked in general in the foodservice industry is building a brand name which will assure the sustainability and success of your business model.”

Looking deeper, Besecker gave three key reasons why locally sourced products impact marketability.

1. Local foods provide added market value.  They are fresher and taste better, which customers will come back to.  Also, working with food producers directly can enable restaurants to expand menu options.

2. Buying local food increases customer awareness.  Collaborating with other local businesses increases exposure because essentially client bases are combined.

3. There is a heightened client perception.  Besecker said by investing the caring, time and energy to increase the value of your business through locally frown foods, you relay a greater level of caring for your customer base.

Importance and Crucial Factors

“As a foodservice business, the two main concerns which stand out above all else are the relative freshness factor of food products sourced within a close radius to your business and the relative reduction in cost which can be associated with sourcing your food locally,” Besecker said.

Image: Earl53/MorgueFile

Supply chain pricing is affected by the distance food has to travel from the producer to the restaurant, also known as “food miles.”  The further the food, the more expensive it is because factors such as fuel, storage, handling costs, etc.

“Does it not make perfect sense then, to consider sourcing your supply chain as closely as possible to your business with fewer stops and hands in your pockets in between?” Besecker asked.

Looking into the food itself, frozen and preserved foods tend to lose their freshness and flavor as well as vital nutrients.  Fresh foods will taste better and have more flavor.

“As any good chef will know, if one wishes to achieve maximum freshness and flavor from product and other products, then minimal delay from harvest to table will yield the best results.”

Real Examples

For Ozro & Ray’s, an authentic home style bagel shop, Besecker said they are using a locally sourced food model.

Image: Ozro & Ray's Facebook

“We are utilizing a combination of small, local farms, local farmers markets within a 100 mile radius of our business, community gardens and a collaborative with another local restaurant operation with their own farm to source our food supply needs,” he said.

Also, they have local food wholesalers who have adopted their own versions of locally sourced food programs.

Besecker said their long term goal is to develop a business plan to tie a local goods restaurant concept which ties in with a general store concept that focuses on local Ohio product lines.

Local Food Resources

Next Month…

Stay tuned next month for more information from Besecker, including the benefits of going local, stereotypes/hurdles and what restaurants are doing.

Image: penywise/MorgueFile

Also, be sure to check out Greenville Community Gardens as well as these two other sites Besecker told us about, Small Town Growth Group and Local Provisions. In the future, we’ll also look into schools going local and other foodservices as well.

What local initiatives is your area or restaurant involved with? Is there anything you would like to learn more about for our next blog?


Alternatives to the College Cafeteria

Last month we told you about The Latest News and Trends for College Foodservices focusing on the ways campuses are working to provide alternatives to the usual cafeteria lines.   This month we’ll take a look at how students are taking dietary matters into their own hands and going outside the traditional food provided on campus.  With alternative kitchens, convenient delivery and even a hands on approach, students are taking it upon themselves (with a little help from outside chefs, restaurants and local farmers) to make sure they’re never caught wondering what’s for dinner.

Sorority/Fraternity Kitchens

Photo from campuscooks.com

Though students living in a Sorority or Fraternity are still located on campus, they often have the distinct advantage of living in a location with its own private kitchen.   Along with this private kitchen usually comes a cook or chef of some sort to provide those living in the house with their meals.  This chef is frequently chosen and paid for by the members of the Sorority/Fraternity.   The downside to this is that it usually also means finding the most affordable person available rather than someone that will provide the healthiest or best tasting meals.   However, one of Central’s own customers, Campus Cooks, is helping to change all of this in over fifty Sorority and Fraternity houses across the country.   Campus Cooks sets itself apart from the average campus cafeteria by providing quality food and kitchen management at a flat per person rate to ensure that students are getting the most out of what little money they have to spend.  The company takes on the responsibility of hiring on-site cooks to make fresh lunches, dinners and snacks for each house.   In order to develop these healthy and creative menus the cooks use feedback from the students living in that particular house so the food is customized their specific tastes and preferences.   This in-house option is also a great alternative for those suffering from food allergies and dietary restrictions because the cook can make meals specifically for these individual to avoid any adverse reactions.  Cooks are even trained to incorporate the newest food trends to keep the meals interesting and nutritious on a daily basis.

Online Ordering from Local Restaurants

Photo from wokwoktulsa.com

While not all students are lucky enough to have a chef cater to their specific tastes, any academic with a little extra cash has the ability to order out.   However, ordering food has never been as easy as it now is with the recently launched Deals4MealsOnline, a concept created by former college students for current college students.  

While attending Seton Hall, founder Kenneth Cucchia and his friends ran into a problem that he was sure others on campus had also encountered…they didn’t know where to order food from.  Cucchia told The Sentonian, “I was just sitting on my couch one day with my roommates, and we were trying to figure out where to go to order some cheap food.  I Google’d it and it took me forever to find a list of places to order from in South Orange (New Jersey), and that’s pretty much where the idea came from.”  This desire for take out inspired Cucchia to solve the problem for years to come by developing Deals4MealsOnline, a site that allows students to search for just about any type of food they’re craving in their area, order online and have it delivered right to their door.  And on this new one-stop food delivery site, students are the only ones to benefit.   Restaurants also reap the benefits of  having the ability to receive online orders at a more afforable price as well as the advantage of targeted advertising on the site and via social media. 

Local Food Programs

Photo from realfoodchallenge.org

Students are not only creating new ways to find meals, they are also growing, selling and cooking the food on many campuses.   Through programs like Farm to College, many students are getting the opportunity to know exactly where their food is coming from by being a part of it in every stage.   Over 150 colleges and universities participate in this program where students can participate in activities like product research, planning gardens, farming, preparing food and even coordinating the purchase and delivery of products to dining halls that are available locally, but not necessarily on-campus.   Although currently the majority of the Farm to College programs are still overseen by campus foodservices or other administrative services many of the programs were initiated by students and at least twelve of the schools programs are currently completely student run.

Photo from gazettenet.com

In addition to growing and preparing food on campus, some students are event selling it for both student and community use.  One example of this is the student-run farmer’s market at the University of Massachusetts (also a participant in the Farm to College program).   This year, three of the schools sustainable living programs joined together to put on the farmer’s market in order to raise awareness and promote farm-to-table living.   According to an article in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, “In addition to the farmer’s market stand, the Student Farming Enterprise – a six-credit course consisting of two one-semester sections – runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.”  These programs allow students, faculty and other community members to receive education on healthy food as well as a trusted local source to buy it from.

What cafeteria alternatives have you seen popping up on campus?   How do they compare with the typical campus cafeteria?


Where to Get in on the Farm-to-Fork Trend

Back in September of 1992, the Organic Trade Association started “Organic Harvest Month™” to promote the use of “organic food and agriculture through regional and local events,” laying down the path for what would eventually become the  Farm-to-Fork movement.   More recently the United States Department of Agriculture brought the Farm-to-Fork movement to the forefront by starting the “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” program as a “commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.”

FarmThe main interest for both of these programs lies in something that is quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in food, Farm-to-Fork (also sometimes referred to as Farm-to-Table).   This trend is basically defined as food coming directly from a local source.  A hundred years ago this local sourcing of  food was commonplace.   However, as more people moved away from farms and into cities, the ritual of obtaining food became something most often done within the walls of a grocery store where produce, meats and other products usually come from different states and even occasionally another country.   But within the last few decades, many people have started going back to the Farm-to-Fork way of eating both to ensure fresher (often organic) foods and to help their local farmers.

As the summer comes to an end, many Farm-to-Fork events are popping up all over the country to help get the word out about the movement.  We’ve found a few of the annual Farm-to-Fork festivals around the U.S. that may just inspire you to take the leap and join in on the trend.

Festival:  Farm to Fork Events
Where:  Oregon
When:  Various dates from June to October
What:  Every few weeks a dinner is hosted on a local Oregon farm.  Each dinner features one local winery, a producer and/or chef to create the meal from the farm’s harvest and even live music from local bands.   During the event guests are provided with a tour of the host-farm, a meal and information on the meal’s elements and any non-profit partners involved.  This year there was also a 4-day Farm to Fork Rafting adventure down Oregon’s Rogue River.

Festival:  Farm to Fork Food Invasion
Where: Alabama
When:  Dates vary from year to year.  In 2011, it will be held November 11th and 12th.
What: This two day event is put on by the Hampstead Institute, a non-profit dedicated to sustainable living and growing a healthier community.   The first night consists of a 35-seat, Farm-to-Fork Dinner.  The second day is a Farm-to-Fork festival with live music, food and drink tastings wrapping up with a pig roast.

And just in case you can’t make it to one of these festivals, we’ve also found five great restaurants across the U.S. that follow the movement and are open year-around.

1)      The Inn at Red Hills in Dundee, Oregon
2)      Husk in Charleston, South Carolina
3)      Station 220 in Bloomington, Illinois
4)      Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland
5)      Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington, Massachusetts

For more information on the benefits of the Farm-to-Fork movement or the “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” program be sure to visit Food Insight.