Your favorite restaurant may be serving up more than farm fresh fare.
A growing number of chefs are partnering with farmers to provide Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions to diners.
The CSA subscriptions are still organized by farmers; chefs merely offer their restaurants as pickup locations, storing CSA boxes in their kitchens and inviting members to drop by for their weekly allotments of fresh produce, eggs or meat.
“It gives us a chance to work with the farmers more closely,” says Joseph Gillard, executive chef at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, Calif. “It’s a very complementary relationship; it lets us give back to our guests and the farmers who grow our food.”
Gillard, who orders most of the produce for his farm-to-table restaurant from Country Fresh Farm, came up with the idea to partner in their CSA program in 2008.
Subscribers drop by on Wednesday afternoons to pick up their CSA box, which often includes a few extras from Napa Valley Grille.
“I work alongside the farmers to decide what goes into the baskets,” he explains. “We augment [the produce] with extras like pesto, peach jam, hot sauce, flatbread or other seasonal items we make in the kitchen.”
Gillard also provides the recipes that are tucked into each CSA box. Once a year, he prepares a farm fresh dinner for sulbscribers.
Steven Satterfield, co-owner and executive chef at Miller Union, started offering CSA pickups at his Atlanta farm-to-table restaurant in 2009. Moore Farms drops off 10 to 12 boxes of produce every Wednesday, and members are allowed to pick up their shares between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
According to Satterfield, partnering with Moore Farms to distribute CSA boxes to members helps further his mission to promote farm fresh fare.
“[Being a CSA pickup location] helps encourage people to use local, seasonal ingredients in their own kitchens,” he explains. “It also helps promote awareness of our farm-to-table foods.”
In San Francisco, executive chef Guillaume Bienaimé invited shareholders in the Baia Nicchia Farms CSA to pick up their boxes at Marché; Flying Pigs Farm in New York coordinated with two restaurants – Telepan on the Upper West Side and Peter’s Back Forty in the East Village – to serve as pickup locations for their CSAs.
Chefs believe that partnering with farmers to distribute CSA subscriptions demonstrates their commitment to local farms and fresh, organic produce. Of course, the restaurants benefit, too.
“We develop closer relationships with the farmers who supply us with produce,” says Satterfield. “As far as our guests go, I guess it might help keep us on their brains a little more if they are dropping by the restaurant every week to pick up their CSA boxes.”
Jodi Helmer is the author of The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference.