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Farm-to-Table is somewhat of a ubiquitous term these days…and typically brings with it a host of assumptions: $90 prix fixe menus, impossibly small portions, and the inaccessibility of snobbish foodie culture. But, without debating the validity of such assumptions, the farm to table movement is creating some big shifts in the rapidly growing fast casual movement.
Case in point: New York City chain Dig Inn, which has recently joined the roster of upscale restaurants that own and operate their own farms, such as Primo in Maine or Cophenhagen-based Noma which recently closed in order to completely recast itself as an urban farm. Yet, unlike its predecessors, Dig Inn serves meals at “lunch counter prices,” bringing this environmental mindfulness into the everyday diner’s life.
So asks the skeptic. Indeed, while sourcing 100% of produce from the farm would be ideal, Adam Eskin, founder of Dig Inn, admits “We’re never going to have a farm large enough to support what I would consider our fairly loft growth goals. You have to have a supply chain for that.” Dig Inn will continue to work with area farms to supply the hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh produce used annually.
Thus, vegetables grown at Dig Inn’s farm will only supply a portion of the chain’s needs, and the farm will largely be an educational tool for employees. The leadership at Dig Inn hopes to inspire test kitchen chefs and line cooks alike by exposing them to the intricate work that goes into growing produce. Customers, too, will get a taste for the farm-to-counter experience without breaking the bank.
With Dig Inn planning to open a location in Boston in the coming year, we can’t help but think of our favorite local-sourcing fast casual chain, b.good. b.good’s mission of “real food. fast” means that in their own expansion plans, they’re continuing to work with local vendors and source fresh ingredients for their burgers, smoothies, and grain bowls. In our many years working with b.good, we’ve grown hyper-local kale and tomatoes for them in kiddie pools and raised beds, and mint in indoor systems. The effect is similar: the gardens are not wholly replacing the supply chain, but rather are installed to teach customers and employees alike to what it means to grow their own.
After all, b.good founder Jon Olinto says it all: “Our Bolyston location’s indoor garden has generated more attention and buzz than any sign or anything else we’ve done to connect people with what we do and our mission.”
Time to dig in!