2009 Farmer Chef Connection

On Monday February 9, 2009, two CAGJ-ers attended the Seattle Chef’s Collaborative Farmer Chef Connection event, held at Herban Feast in SODO. The Farmer Chef Connection was an all-day conference, bringing together regional food producers and buyers for business-to-business networking, presentations & workshops.

The event featured talks by chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas and culinary consultant and chef instructor, Greg Atkinson, as well as panel discussions featuring local food growers, distributors, chefs, and community organizations. There were morning and afternoon networking breakout sessions, and a lunch and afternoon tasting featuring products by local food producers.

See below for some notes taken by CAGJ members from the event.

Breakout Session Notes: Meeting the Challenge of Local Distribution

Written by: Maria Elena Rodriguez

 

Main question: How do we create connections between farmers and restaurants/markets/buyers?

Format: Panel of various players (two farmers, rep from Charlie’s Produce, restaurant owner, and rep from NW Business Agriculture Center)

 

Facts mentioned:

  • Farmers don’t always (and rarely do) have time to distribute their own products!!
  • 2% of food produced in WA state is consumed here, this is the same around the country
  • Most food in this country travels 1500 food miles from farm to plate
  • Developing viable alternatives for localizing our food distribution systems are extremely beneficial to our local food producers, and have positive environmental effects

 

What some farmers are doing:

  • Ship non-perishable items UPS (a short-term solution).
  • Work with restaurants/buyers to increase open communication/flexibility in what restaurants/stores will buy. Tailor menus more to what’s in season and locally available.
  • Getting together with other local growers to create their own distribution systems.

 

Some ideas on what should be done:

  • Ideal situation is that farmers don’t have to distribute their own products so they have more time to farm, but without compromising quality/freshness/transparency. When companies like Charlie’s take over distribution food is often much less fresh and spends more time between farm to plate. It can also get complicated or impossible to tell exactly what farm the produce came from because it takes effort to keep things labeled.
  • Important to maintain connections/relationships between farmers and buyers and open communication so both are getting what they need from the relationship. Some current distribution systems (Charlie’s) sever ties between growers and buyers.
  • More centralized/consolidated pickup centers and cooling centers would be helpful to distributors so they can cut down on numerous trips to small farms (mentioned by Charlie’s rep).
    • But will this sever more ties between growers and buyers? Will buyers still know where it’s coming from? Will it do more harm than good?
  • Have Chefs pick up products at farmers’ markets? Cut down on trip/combined shipments.
  • Online market places where consumer/chefs/buyers can purchase local farm products?
    • Example: fooducopia.com. Will be launched soon, an online marketplace where buyers can purchase products directly from local farmers and food entrepreneurs.
    • Will this also sever direct relationships between growers and buyers?

written by Maria Elena Rodriguez

Posted in Food Justice Blog Posts.

One Comment

  1. This is an important topic, here (East Coast) (Island of Martha’s Vineyard) we are dealing with the same distribution problem. Last two years a group of farmers cooperatively organized a effort to have a local produce warehouse start delivering our collected produce. The warehousing was too long and improperly held, and we all lost. We are now brainstorming new ideas. The modern distribution chains have left the small farmer out of the equation and we are trying to force ourselves back in.
    The best Idea to so far is; at the end of the bi-weekly farmer’s market for a chefs only trade period to start where deals will be struck by supply and demand. Several farmers scoffed at the idea of lowering their prices as a substitute for delivery. We may be ready to hire a ‘driver’ with a small refrigerated truck to make every other day rounds. At my farm I have set up a phone, fax and email line that can be accessed by these chefs any time of day or night to place an order; by 7 am for same day pickup. On the mainland SEMAP has a mildly successful organization that I have used for 4 years, check it out.
    Thank you, Simon Athearn (formerly from Everett, WA)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.