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Photo courtesy Barbara Russell
Bob Russell and his wife, Barbara, grow exclusively for restaurants in and around Rehoboth Beach, Del.
In some cases, chef farm tours can progress into on-farm chef workshops or even on-farm chef schools. A demonstration or workshop on preparing fresh-cut herbs, for example, could benefit the farmer in multiple ways. Offer this free to chefs in the area as an enticement for them to visit and, hopefully, become a customer.
Classes could be offered as a paid workshop for regional chef schools or for chefs looking for continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their credentials. In the latter case, farmers can contact regional cooking schools to find out the requirements to offer CEUs.
Even a full-fledged on-farm cooking school can help a small farm profit. Dylan Stockman, a professional cook, took classes at Quillisascut Cheese Company, a small family eco-farm in Washington owned by Rick and Lora Lea Misterly. Quillisascut teams up with a talented local chef for the farm’s cooking-school segment.
Stockman says, “I believe that cooks and chefs have so much to learn from opportunities like the farm tour. They are able to see where their product comes from. They can appreciate the life of the tomato, beet or chicken. When you harvest your own product, you have a sense of pride, because you harvested it and you get excited about what you are going to do with it. You don’t start to think about ‘gourmet,’ you just want to do it justice. You want the product to stand out, so people can say, ‘Wow, I have never tasted a pepper so rich and sweet. Where did you get these?’ and then you are able to tell them. Then the customer guests get excited because they can read your excitement.”
Contact your local cooperative extension if you’re interested in hosting on-farm cooking demonstrations, workshops or a school for chefs. Depending on the model they have in mind, there may be food-handling permits and other regulations to follow.
To read more about being a chef farmer, read “Making a Culinary Connection” in the January/February 2010 Hobby Farms.