Utah Farm-Chef-Fork Programme Overview
The benefits and barriers to local-sourcing restaurants prompted the development of a state-wide programme aimed at connecting growers and chefs, called Utah Farm-Chef-Fork. Utah Farm-Chef-Fork was established in 2012 through a USDA Specialty Crop grant and is a collaborative project between Utah State University Extension and Slow Food Utah. The programme’s primary goal is to ‘enhance community vitality and reduce food miles by connecting Utah growers and restaurants’ through workshops, mingles (meet and greets), farm and restaurant tours and other local-sourcing food events.
Farm-to-restaurant sourcing programmes - including New York’s Columbia County Bounty, Home Grown Wisconsin, Red Tomato in the Northeast US, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Colorado Crop to Cuisine - have been successfully launched in many other states. As a result, several ‘how to’ guides exist regarding direct marketing to restaurants developed by the USDA, Cooperative Extension and others (Pepinsky and Thilmany, 2004; Gregoire et al., 2005). These guides provide suggestions to growers for dealing with chefs, including product availability, brochures on farm history, mission and products, and providing chefs with free samples. Other tips include guidelines for establishing relationships and specifics on product handling. The existing research, programmes and associated curricula provided a foundation for developing the Utah Farm-Chef-Fork initiative.
Prior to programme delivery, a comprehensive needs assessment was conducted, including an in-depth literature review and web-based (SurveyMonkey) interest surveys conducted with growers and local chefs. The surveys were conducted state-wide in the spring of 2013 in an effort to understand perceived barriers and benefits to sourcing locally, and the types of information and interaction that would increase the incidence of local-food sourcing at Utah restaurants. The interest survey was completed by 20 chefs and 36 growers. Survey results were used to customize programme materials, delivery methods and activities to the needs of the target audience.
The initiative was launched with four major objectives to guide programming:
- • Educate chefs/owners of locally owned restaurants on effective communication and outreach techniques to use with local growers via a series of state-wide workshops.
- • Educate growers regarding effective communication, marketing and production planning via a series of state-wide workshops.
- • Conduct mingles and farm and restaurant tours for growers and chefs to increase communication and understanding of each other’s abilities, needs and requirements.
- • Organize farm dinners for the general public, with local chefs preparing the meal from products provided by host farms, to promote and educate residents and visitors on the cuisine and food culture of Utah.