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Connecting Farmers to Diners
Farmers, Restaurant Owners and Diners Benefit From Farm-to-Table Movement

August 2016
Waterfront Kitchen Executive Chef Audiel Vera  utilizes Chesapeake Farm to Table to connect with farmers. ©Chanan Delivuk

Waterfront Kitchen Executive Chef Audiel Vera utilizes Chesapeake Farm to Table to connect with farmers. ©Chanan Delivuk

When you go to a local restaurant, you expect a certain value for your dollar spent. The employees assisting you should be friendly and helpful. The environment should be tidy and not overwhelming. Your food should be prepared with care and arrive at the table in a reasonable amount of time.

You don’t have to own a restaurant to understand the importance of hospitality: we expect our own employees to provide the best customer service possible. Your customers set their expectations based off of previous experiences and often choose to spend more money where they’ve had the most positive experiences.

The importance of customer experience is much the same when the business happens to be a farm. Local restaurant owners are finding out quickly that their expectations for high quality meat, produce, herbs and so much more can be met and exceeded by farmers living right down the street. Working with local producers makes not only a great experience for the restaurateur, but for their customers as well.

The Food Marketing Institute conducted a national study in 2009 to find consumer motives for buying locally grown items, and the results were less than surprising. The top three most important reasons were freshness, supporting the local economy and knowing where their food comes from – three values that resonate with local restaurant owners.

When a restaurant owner makes the decision to invest in locally sourced ingredients, the benefits reaped create a ripple effect of good things for all sides of the table. Environmental improvements are seen when the distance produce needs to travel between farm and restaurant decreases; as carbon emissions are reduced, we put less strain on local resources and create a healthier environment for the community. From an economic standpoint, locally spent dollars tend to go much further than those spent at a chain store. Local businesses re-circulate a greater share of every dollar earned back into the local economy, creating a stronger local supply chain.

For farmers, earning a dollar doesn’t typically come from just one source. The agriculture industry can be a temperamental one as its successes and failures often rely heavily on outside circumstances like weather and disease. Because the pricing of commodities can be so heavily dependent on one another, it pays for farmers to diversify their streams of income to minimize financial risk. By investing money in your local farmer, you’re helping them create the capital needed to improve facilities, purchase equipment and expand their operation.

While the restaurant owner gains a new and unique angle to market his business, the farmer finds another source of income. They both build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Waterfront Kitchen’s menu is 90 percent locally sourced by small farms. ©Justin Tsucalas

Waterfront Kitchen’s menu is 90 percent locally sourced by small farms. ©Justin Tsucalas

How Does This Affect You?
This business relationship sounds great for the restaurant owner and the farmer, but what does it have to do with you and how you do business? Since the beginning of time, food has been more than just nutrition for our bodies. Food is a unique centerpiece for celebrations, holidays and other important rituals in our culture – including business meetings. Food has the ability to touch all five of our senses and because of this heightened level of sensory information available, we’re able to build vivid memories based on this shared experience. When you take the extra step to choose a restaurant that sources local ingredients for your next lunch meeting, you’ll gain the opportunity to learn and try something new, which in turn, creates a new and unique experience for your client.

What Does Farm-to-Table Look Like in Baltimore?
Perhaps one of the greatest selling points of Baltimore is the array of cuisines available around every turn. No matter what kind of food your taste buds crave, Baltimore restaurants are sure to deliver – and that includes locally sourced and produced cuisines.

Waterfront Kitchen
Waterfront Kitchen, located in historic Fells Point, has a lot to be proud of – outside of the spectacular dining room view of the Inner Harbor. Waterfront Kitchen features a 100 percent organic seasonal menu that is 90 percent locally sourced by small farms in the Mid-Atlantic region. As an example, on any given day their free-range eggs could be from One Straw Farm in White Hall, Md., their free-range poultry and pork from Rettland Farm in Gettysburg, Pa., and their beef from Roseda Farm in Monkton, Md. They also use the Living Classroom’s Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students greenhouse and garden to source some of their ingredient needs. Executive Chef Audiel Vera credited the foundation of the restaurant to this program. “We wanted to see the community move forward in a positive way and the program has helped us give underprivileged adults in the community a second chance by helping to develop their skills and build a career in the food and agriculture industries.” Vera also credits Chesapeake Farm to Table as a crucial resource in creating the connections with local farms from which they source.

Fleet Street Kitchen
Fleet Street Kitchen can be found between Little Italy and the new Harbor East neighborhood serving a menu of modern American cuisine. They feature seasonal dishes built on ethically and sustainably raised local ingredients. But Fleet Street Kitchen gives the term local a new meaning. Nearby Cunningham Farm, which helps provide produce, eggs, pork, lamb and beef, is owned by the Bagby Restaurant Group – the same group that owns Fleet Street Kitchen. Cunningham Farm’s 80 acres caters to the rest of the restaurants in the Bagby Group as well, providing fresh seasonal items picked at peak flavor, freshness and nutritional content.

Maggie’s Farm
Maggie’s Farm opened in 2012 with a unique menu featuring a “trademark blend of globally-inspired comfort food” developed by Chef Tim Hogan and General Manager Matthew Weaver. Maggie’s Farm boasts their support for local farms and businesses by sourcing products from Kohl Family Farm, Tuscarora Organic Co-op, Andy’s Eggs & Poultry, Roseda Farm, Zeke’s Coffee and even their own garden. I95