Farm tour introduces chefs to area growers
More than 20 restaurateurs, chefs, and others from the San Antonio area interested in locally grown agricultural products recently participated in a Chef’s Farm Tour in South Central Texas sponsored by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
According to a May 24 “AgriLife TODAY” press release, the daylong tour consisted of stops at the operations of diverse agricultural producers, including Color Burst Hydroponics in Marion, Peeler Farms in Floresville, Pollok’s Market in Falls City, Boening Dairy in Poth, Eugene Martinez Farms in Pleasanton, and Oak Hills Farm in Poteet.
“The Chef’s Farm Tour began as a way to bring chefs and others who decide what will be on restaurant menus to area agricultural operations to see what is being grown locally and learn how these products are being produced,” said Marilyn Magaro, Texas Department of Agriculture senior marketing specialist based in San Antonio.
The department invites current and prospective members of their GO TEXAN Restaurant Program and selects the locations to be visited. Restaurants with the GO TEXAN designation commit to using Texas-grown products in their menu offerings. Chef’s Farm Tours have been given in various parts of the state.
“We have several hundred restaurants throughout Texas that are part of the GO TEXAN program and we feel these farm tours have been one of the advantages of that program,” Magaro said. “What started as a small group wanting to find fresh, wholesome, local, seasonal products has grown into a statewide cadre of chefs, restaurateurs, nutritionists, ‘food stylists,’ and others interested in finding and using quality agricultural products locally.”
Magaro said since chefs and others in the food industry have limited free time, the tours provide an opportunity to bring them together with agricultural producers and to showcase different locations and products during each tour.
Area restaurants represented at this year’s tour included Biga on the Banks, Auden’s Kitchen, Citrus restaurant at Hotel Valencia River Walk, Lüke, and Cappy’s Restaurant.
Chef’s Farm Tour attendees cited the importance of finding fresh produce, beef, and chicken for their clientele, and the advantages of knowing about the people and locations providing these products.
“I think people like to know where their food is coming from and something about the type of people and business supplying it,” said Marianna Peeler of Peeler Farms, which provides fresh eggs and poultry primarily for restaurants in the San Antonio and Fredericksburg area. “Plus it helps if you can deliver the product to them. I guess the best proof that you’re doing things right is positive customer feedback and repeat business.”
Dr. Connie Sheppard, the AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences agent for Bexar County who helped coordinate the tour, said other benefits of buying locally include nutritional, environmental, and economic benefits.
“Buying vegetables locally and seasonally gives the consumer fresh food at the peak of its nutritional value,” Sheppard said. “It also cuts down on transportation, which means less fuel and a smaller carbon footprint. And buying locally benefits area growers and their communities by helping supporting the local economy and helping keep jobs in Texas.”
Sheppard added that knowing an agricultural supplier’s operation and processes can help those in the food industry determine which producers adhere to high-quality standards and limit or avoid the use of preservatives or additives.
Magaro said that everyone in the “buying local food chain” benefits from these tours.
“For area farmers, ranchers, dairymen, and others, connecting with these chefs provides opportunities for lasting business and personal relationships,” she said. “For the chefs and restaurateurs it provides awareness of local, dependable, quality agricultural products and helps inspire menu selections. And ultimately, the consumer benefits by being able to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of these relationships.”