Bringing Farmers and Chefs to the Table | Connecticut Public Radio

Bringing Farmers and Chefs to the Table

Feb 1, 2011

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture convened a meeting today to introduce farmers to chefs looking for local food. As WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports the agency held a kind of “speed dating” exercise to bring people together.

“30 seconds left! 30 seconds left!”

A clang of a cow-bell moves the participants from table to table. About two thirds are from restaurants, hospitals and food distributors. One third are harvesters and farmers, like Alysson Angelini from Jones Family Farms.

“I grow vegetables and small fruit and livestock and run a cooking school.”

Drew McLachlan thinks maybe he can use some of her squash and potatoes in the commercial kitchen he’s about to open.

“The hardest thing, especially starting this business here in the middle of winter, is to find out what people have.”

Organic farmer James Roby says he’d like to sell to chefs. But he can often get a better price selling direct to consumers at farmer's markets.

“The chefs have to come in at a competitive enough price so that it makes it worth the farmers' time to do a wholesale transaction of produce and walk away with enough money in their pocket to make it worthwhile.”

The challenge for chefs is finding enough of what they want when they want it. And getting it to the kitchen. Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez is with the Spa at Norwich Inn.

“It’s not always easy to work with local farmers because you have to do a lot more leg work, but it’s well worth it in flavor and freshness and also knowing the product comes form somebody close to you, your neighbor essentially.”

Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky says only 1% of consumer dollars is spent on Connecticut-grown foods. He told the crowd boosting that even a few percentage points could help protect farms and farmland.

For WNPR, I’m Nancy Cohen.

Visit the CT Department of Agriculture website for more information about the state's Farm to Chef Program.