[Market-farming] Restaurant update

Richard Moyer ramoyer at gmail.com
Tue May 22 22:02:12 EDT 2012


Carla wrote:
 "I'm in the planning process for fall crops and I sent an email to both
chefs stating what we would be growing and asking if they would be
interested in any of those crops. I want to make sure I plant enough for
our markets and the restaurants, but neither chef will really commit to
anything. Is that normal?  Do they not think that far ahead?

How do you plan?  We've always done one market day a week, and this year we
are doing 3, plus the restaurants. I want to make sure I have enough
produce to get us through until it freezes, but I'm clueless as to how much
more."

Carla,
Random thoughts about this ongoing process that I'm still learning:  It's a
messy relationship because humans are involved, and we sometimes are pushed
by forces we didn't/can't anticipate.

Agreed with Karen, that asking chefs what you could grow for them is
valuable.  I ask: what can't you find (enough of) locally?  Then I narrow
down their wish list to what I can grow or have grown.
Make sure you are on the same page regarding quality, how the items will
get to them, and their preferred mode of paying you.  Here, some prefer
paying every week and others once per month. Make it as easy as possible
for them, as works for you.

If you still have the energy/sanity, consider growing after frost/freeze,
with season extension and/or cold hardy veggies.  In my area, the big
producers for local restaurants phase out in Sept (much of their help
leaves), which grants space for others to fill the gap Oct, Nov, Dec and
beyond.

Chefs here are big on seasonal root crops, and fall root crops hold well in
the ground or cellar, lessening the pressure to sell them quickly.  Many
greens hold well in the field, too, with minimal protection, and minimal
watering or pest pressure.  So I don't sweat the details of how many lbs
they'll want per week on these items.

Remember to give free samples of something you'd like them to try; some
chefs appreciate the challenge of something unusual, and one brings back
samples of his best creations.  This creates impromptu sales when they
realize the possibilities, and has led to increased orders beyond initial
requests.  This way I can build demand for the crops that did the best, and
help cover for the ones that did poorly.

In our area, lots of brassicas (turnips, rutabagas, radishes, etc can be
seeded in early August through Sept, so I don't have to have it all planned
out now, and can ask chefs during that period instead of now as I plan for
fall planting.

Also, realize that in many settings, there are forces beyond chefs'
control, making it difficult for them to guarantee sales of items 4-6
months out.  They may be at a different job then!

Sometimes an item they wanted you to grow does not work out for their menu;
make sure you grant them that flexibility.  A good way to check up on that
is to ask sous or other chefs which of your items are used, and which are
still in the refrig.

Glad you are on this adventure,
Richard Moyer
SW VA  Thankful for some rain
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