By: Courtney Dabney
The Heart of the South
When Blaine Staniford, executive chef of Grace, started featuring local produce on his menus, his efforts were met not with scorn but with a shrug. Locally, the prevailing opinion was that farm-to-table cooking was a very nice idea and completely impractical, at least for those of us not living in the California valley.
Seven years later, the culinary landscape has changed. Though admittedly still in its infancy, small-scale, hyper-local farming is on the rise. In fact, this weekend (Oct 23 – 25), more than 60 chefs and 3,000 guests will come together in Dallas to say thank you to the local farmers and producers that make their menus possible. Though the event champions local farmers, the featured chefs hail from all over the country – Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Denver, Charleston and, of course, Fort Worth.
Chef Staniford isn’t our only local foods champion, but he’s certainly still one of the most prominent. That’s why, when he asked, we agreed a fitting tribute to the Chefs for Farmers cause would be to use this space to spread the word about a few of the farms that make Grace’s menu possible.
Located in Celina, Texas, this family farm cultivates just five acres of produce. Winter offerings include squash, heirloom radishes, leafy greens, prickly pear fruits and persimmons. Completely organic and pesticide/herbicide-free, they also eschew chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and GMO products. You can find out more about the farm’s practices and products here and check out their market offerings here.
Cold Springs Farm
This Weatherford-based CSA is a true community institution and for good reason. Farmer Beverly Thomas offers regularly scheduled local pick-ups for her members, typically coinciding with farmer’s markets where she offers her produce for sale to the public as well. Chef Blaine goes out each Saturday morning to see what she has to offer and then incorporates her freshest and most flavorful offerings into his weekly menu. Residents interested in joining can sign up for the season via the Cold Springs Farm website or keep up to date on upcoming events via Facebook.
This Denton County poultry producer is featured on the menu at both Grace and Little Red Wasp. Prevailing conditions at mass-market chicken farms are often unsanitary and, arguably, cruel. As much as 70 percent of supermarket chicken products (including those labeled as free-range) have been contaminated with either salmonella or campylobacter – both leading causes of food poisoning. Small farms like Windy Meadows offer a dramatically safer, fresher and kinder alternative, but, for obvious reasons, they cannot sell their chicken for anything like the large producers. Chef and restaurant support can be critical for these small farms, allowing them to expand their operations enough that they are able to serve individual buyers as well. You can find a list of the farmer’s markets that Windy Meadows attends here and a list of their partner restaurants here.
Tassione Farms has an admirable goal with a unique approach. Rocky Tassione serves as the “Resident Farmer” within a planned community called Harvest. Tassione is a working farm, yes, but it’s also a community outreach project. Located in the center of an upscale community, it was founded with the goal of integrating notions of farm-to-table agriculture into the resident’s everyday lives. More information about the farm and surrounding development is available on their website.
It’s important to note that this list is by no means comprehensive. Other Grace restaurant farmer partners include A Bar N Ranch (American wagyu beef, located in Sherman, TX), Pederson Natural Farms (bacon and pork, located in Hamilton, TX), Hat Creek Farms (free-range egg producers, located near Chico, TX) and even a woman known only as the "Logan the Cheese Lady."
If you are interested in finding out more about these and other local farmers, you can find out more via the Chefs for Farmers website. You can also purchase tickets there for this weekend’s events – it’s a great chance to taste the difference for yourself.