State Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky has announced that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farm to Chef Program will host Growing Farmer-Chef Relationships, a trade/buying show that will introduce Connecticut Grown producers to chefs and foodservice buyers on Saturday, February 23rd at Manchester Community College from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
“This is an opportunity for farmers to meet and develop relationships with chefs and buyers from some of the state’s finest small, medium, and large restaurants, as well as from Connecticut institutions, e.g. schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, and state-run facilities, that are looking to serve quality Connecticut Grown ingredients to their diners,” he stated.
The Department of Agriculture launched the Farm-to-Chef Program in 2006 to help connect the state’s farmers with chefs and foodservice buyers. It has hosted annual meetings, farm and seafood tours, demonstrations, and other events; produced a monthly newsletter; and coordinated Farm-to-Chef Week each year in September, during which restaurants and other eateries create and offer special Farm-to-Chef menus featuring Connecticut Grown ingredients.
Going beyond a “meet-and-greet” or even “get-to-know-your-farmer” approach, the Farm-to-Chef Program encourages farmers and chefs to enter into agreements in advance of the season to help balance supply and demand, and to share the risks associated with growing, producing, and using fresh, local farm products.
Moving forward, the program is looking to the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development, which has spent the past year working on the first-ever, holistic strategic plan for Connecticut agriculture, to help it better serve its members. The council has identified restaurants and institutions as a significant opportunity for Connecticut farmers.
To date, the council’s planning process has included 110 hours of in-depth information interviews with key stakeholders, an online survey completed by 232 participants, four regional listening sessions around the state, and a full day of topic-focused meetings, to which 90 experts in specific subject areas were invited to brainstorm and prioritize ideas for recommendations.
One of the three breakout sessions focused on farm-to-institution (including farm-to-restaurant) channels and the infrastructure needed to support those channels. The group determined that enhanced infrastructure to enable better aggregation, light processing, and distribution is a key component to turning the curve in farm-to-institution channels here in Connecticut.
A sample agreement form for a 10-week purchasing period will be provided to all attendees for this purpose, with the option to modify the length or other terms to meet the needs of both parties. The sample calls for half the season’s purchases be paid in advance, with the balance paid at the end of the contract period—but this too can be modified to suit the needs of both seller and buyer.
Each participating farm will be provided space to set up a table display with information about its crop plans, product lines, and wholesale price lists for the upcoming season. Producers will be grouped by category. Tasting is not allowed due to health regulations, but fresh product may be displayed. A producer information form will be sent out to registrants, who are encouraged to fill it out completely and bring copies to hand out at the event.
Many farms in the state are interested in doing business with restaurants and institutional facilities, and many restaurants and institutions want to use Connecticut Grown farm products. A gap exists, however, in farms’ ability to produce sufficient and consistent supply—in the forms needed—of the products sought by those customers.
In addition, the council will be dedicating three working groups to farm-to-institution channels this year, each focusing on a different subset. One will concentrate on restaurants; another will home in on public K-12 schools and state purchasing; the third will focus on colleges and universities, private K-12 schools, healthcare facilities, and corporate cafeterias. These groups will begin meeting in the next few months and continue to identify priorities and recommend steps that will further enhance these markets.
Late registration fee for the Farm-to-Chef Trade/Buying Show (after January 31) is $15 per person, and must be hand-delivered to the Department of Agriculture with payment (check or cash only) by noon on February 22, 2013. Registration forms and additional information about the event are available on the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s website, www.CTGrown.gov (look under “Featured Links”).
For more information about the Farm-to-Chef Program, please visit www.CTGrown.gov/FarmtoChef. For more information about the Governor’s Council for Agricultural Development, go to www.CTGrown.gov/GovernorsCouncil.
Source: Office of Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky