You have already established a connection with a local farmer, and your customers love it. How do you nurture that relationship so that it benefits both of you and lasts for years to come?
Finding the right farmer in your area can be a challenge, as can figuring out which items on your menu would benefit from locally sourced ingredients. Once all that hard work is done, you want to be sure that this relationship lasts a long time, and is profitable for both parties.
Here are some suggestions for helping to get the most out of this relationship.
Connect On Social Media
With today’s landscape of foodies and food bloggers, consumers all over the country are connecting and interacting with the producers in their community, as well as the chefs and other food enthusiasts. You need to be a part of that conversation. Connect with the farmers you’re working with on social media so that you can join in and both parties can expand their audience. Visit the farm and take photos with the farmers, workers, and also the farm itself, the crops and the animals. Considering bringing a photographer with you to take a lot of high quality images to use in your social media.
Now that you have this relationship, become educated about what this particular farm grows, and also what grows in your entire region. What is available seasonally in your region? What are the growing conditions in your area? What are your diners hungry for? Are your diners willing to pay more for locally sourced ingredients?
Don’t be shy to ask your farmer a lot of questions. Most farmers have intimate relationships with their crops and in addition to growing them, they prepare and eat a lot of them. They know what makes them special and how they taste. Are the greens edible on this plant? How do you prepare them? Learning more about the produce you buy can be educational, and also inspiring for the chef.
In order to have a good working relationship, both parties need to feel confident and comfortable. Talk about quality standards and delivery expectations so that both parties know exactly what to expect. Will all the crops be washed before delivery? How will they be packaged?
Consider Food Safety
Always high on the list of concerns for any restauranteur, ask the farm how their food is handled post-harvest. Are there any food handling regulations in your area that the farmer should know about to work with your restaurant?
Address Supply Concerns
Can this farm meet your supply needs? Also, would the farm be willing to work together before the planting season and plan your menu and growing together? Some farms may be willing to plant specialty items for you, or increase quantities of certain crops, if they are assured that they’ll sell them. This is a great opportunity to possibly have a speciality item that other restaurants won’t.