Some restaurants are buying their own farms to supply fresh quality organic food to their patrons. One example is the Dig Inn chain of fast casual restaurants in Manhattan, New York.
Dig Inn’s farm will not be their only produce supplier. The intent is to use it as a living lab mostly where they will test various organic agricultural and aquaculture techniques in a greenhouse, experimenting with heirloom seed varieties and organic methods like companion and rotational planting.
Unlike other fast food chains, their chefs and cooks are taught to cook from scratch. They will train at the farm learning how their crops are grown and for new dishes inspiration. Because the chefs must remain within a couple hours drive of their restaurants, the new farm will be located in upstate New York. They may also offer farm tours and hosted dinners at the farm for the public.
The founder of Dig Inn, Adam Eskin, said they will have to maintain a supply chain. They can not own enough land to fulfill the needs of their “lofty” expansion goals. There are already 11 locations with the opening of 5 to 7 more planned for 2016, one of which will be in Boston.
The farm size will be 50 to 100 acres with first crop harvesting expected in 2017. In 2015 their restaurants went through almost 260,000 pounds of kale alone, so it would take more land than they plan to buy. They already have other local farmers who work with them and are committed to supplying carrots, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
Some of the fine dining restaurants using their own farms, sometimes as sole supplier, are the Primo in Rockland, Maine, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Hudson Valley, and the legendary Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which made the best restaurant in the world list for three consecutive years. The Barn @ Primo sits on top of the green hills of their private organic farm where Jame Beard Award winning Chef Melissa Kelly and staff offer guests a real farm-to-table experience. René Redzepi also forages food for Noma from the nearby forests and coast, choosing some plants many would consider weeds.
Examples of the unique food available at these restaurants are baby kale direct from the garden with a creamy cashew dressing, watermelon radish; grilled New York Strip Steak with winter roots of rutabaga, carrot, parsnip and sunchoke Chimichurri; the first green shoots of spring with a scallop marinade; and white asparagus with poached egg yolk and sauce of woodruff.
At Blue Hill’s original New York City restaurant in Greenwich Village just off Washington Square Park, ingredients come from Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, forty-five minutes drive from NYC. They offer a four-course “Tasting Menu” or the “Farmer’s Feast,” a six-course tasting inspired by the week’s harvest.