Real Local RVA’s February Meeting
“Farm to Table Panel Discussion”
moderated by Robey Martin
Our 2019 meeting series is off to a great start! Feburary’s meeting was full of new faces, local food buzz, and lots of networking. Our panelists provided great insight into the workings of each of their respective restaurants and farms, discussed local sourcing in Richmond, and all agreed that communication is the key to the success of local food making its way onto the plates of consumers. Moderated by Robey Martin with CBS6, our panelists included:
- Susan Davenport with Tazza Kitchen
- David Crabtree-Logan with The Broken Tulip
- Joe Jenkins with Bow Tide Farms
- Mike Ledesma with Perch
- Chris Stem with Harlow Ridge Farm
After each panelist introduced themselves and their business, Robey kicked off the discussion with a high level question about the buzz within the RVA food scene about sourcing local. All of the panelists undeniably agreed to the benefits of sourcing locally, that it builds community, supports the local economy, and most importantly creates a better dish for the customer. Susan mentioned an egg dish served at Tazza is a “totally different dish with local eggs,” and well worth the extra price they pay for the local eggs.
It was interesting to hear how local sourcing ability was directly related to restaurant size and menu type. For example, a small restaurant like The Broken Tulip has the ability to create a daily menu based on what’s in season and available. David and his wife Sariann opened a small restaurant purposefully centered around seasonal and local products. David mentioned his customers are often surprised to know local vegetables are available year round, and while they try not to preach to their customers, they do feel it is important to educate them.
Perch is Chef Mike Ledesma’s first solo project, and Mike mentioned being in the early stages of menu development has its ups and downs. He discussed the importance of using recognizable items on the menu so the consumer feels welcome. He also mentioned their focus on using the “whole” product, whether that’s the whole animal, or whole vegetable to minimize food waste.
A few of our panelists are already working together, which was a great thing to hear! We learned a bit more about the working relationship between Bow Tide Farms and Tazza Kitchen. Bow Tide is selling salad mix and local produce on a regular basis to Tazza. Both Joe and his partner Josh had experience working in the restaurant industry prior to starting their farm business. This has been invaluable for them as they transition from the restaurant industry to farmer. The connections they made and the knowledge they gained of the daily ins and outs of busy restaurants has greatly contributed to their success in local sales. Joe suggests visiting restaurants during their slow time between 2-4 p.m., arriving with the best product possible, and talking fast!
All agreed however, local sourcing doesn’t come without it’s difficulties. It’s very weather dependent, so having some flexibility is key. Chris with Harlow Ridge mentioned the importance as a farmer of recognizing you are not the only source for the restaurant, and having patience during the process is important. The continued theme throughout the panel was communication. Open lines of communication about what products and how much are available are what make this type of trade successful. Both parties, regardless of how busy, should accept responsibility to communicate with the other.
We’d like to give a big THANK YOU to Robey Martin and all of our panelists who took time out of their busy schedules to join us. In this industry, restaurants and farmers have to be two of the busiest professions around so we are grateful they were willing to spend the morning with us. Thanks to Birdie’s Pimento Cheese for the delicious samples, and the Cafe @ St. Stephen’s for the coffee.