Farmer-Restaurant Partnerships Encourage Going Local
If you think a home-cooked meal remains the only way to enjoy locally grown food, think again. Many of today’s restaurants build their menus around local fare – and partner with local farmers to bring farm freshness of foods directly from the country to your fork.
“The farm-to-table movement is hot right now – people are really interested in buying food locally and supporting local farmers and growers,” says Katie Bloomfield, manager/owner of Q7 Ranch in Marengo, located in McHenry County northwest of Chicago. “A lot of restaurants want to be part of that trend.”
And so does Bloomfield, who provides beef, chicken and turkey from animals that graze on grass to about a dozen restaurants in the Chicago area.
“[These restaurants] realize the quality of the product,” says Bloomfield. “Our meat couldn’t get any fresher – it goes directly from the butcher to the restaurant.”
Her customers include the Farmhouse Tavern, a family-run Chicago eatery with a flair for local fare.
“We like to call it ‘farm-to-tavern,’ of course,” says co-owner Ferdia Doherty, who buys a variety of food products locally, including meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, flour, maple syrup – even beer and wine. When partnering with a local farmer, Doherty looks for local, family-run operations.
As he says, “It’s important for us to know where everything comes from, how it is prepared by the farmers and how far it’s traveled.”
Of course, the shorter the distance, the fresher the food.
And “fresh” serves as the main ingredient in a Meatheads Burgers & Fries meal. This family-friendly, Illinois-based restaurant chain offers fresh, made-to-order favorites such as burgers and hot dogs.
“Our beef is sourced from the Midwest and is 100 percent Certified Angus. We also use locally sourced produce,” says Joe Sanders, director of marketing for Meatheads. “We strive to serve as minimally processed food as we can, so the shorter distance from farm to table, the better.”
While the restaurants benefit from fresh products, farmers like Bloomfield can benefit from a steady cash flow by working directly with a restaurant.
Beyond that, “they lend major credibility to our products,” Bloomfield says. So much so, that patrons of the Farmhouse Tavern have been known to seek out Q7 Ranch products after tasting them at the restaurant.
The Farmhouse Tavern places weekly orders for Q7’s beef from cattle pastured on grass – typically ribeyes, ground beef and the occasional New York strip – all delivered the day after butchering.
Bloomfield favors the specially seasoned ribeye prepared by head chef Eric Mansavage, whom she calls a genius.
“It’s really cool to get to see everything they’re doing with our product – I’m always amazed and impressed,” Bloomfield says. She also notes an added bonus: “They act like I’m a celebrity. It makes me feel really good that they appreciate what they’re getting from us and doing something special with it.”
Each side of the partnership shows an equal commitment to quality, another perk of these partnerships.
“Meatheads is passionate about everything we do, and we know it’s all in the details. We enjoy working with farmers and suppliers who feel the same about their business,” Sanders says. “We also find that partnering with local companies allows us to live out our passion for supporting our communities.”
But one of the biggest benefits, Bloomfield says, prevails simply in the camaraderie she has with the restaurants she supplies.
“We all try to promote each other. It’s more about community than business,” she says. “It’s a feel-good thing all around – for the restaurant, customer, chef and farmer.”