Farm to Table Restaurant Dining and Sustainable Farm Partnerships
Our Farm to Table Restaurant Experience
On September 23rd, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the Autumnal Equinox officially marked the year’s seasonal transition from summer to fall. Right on the heels of this annual passage, rose the Harvest Full Moon, symbolically named for the time of year significant to the fall harvest.
For much of the United States, the growing season, when crops are planted, grown, and harvested, encompasses spring, summer, and fall, and runs roughly from May to November. Each year’s range will vary slightly however, as the span of time is dependent on ground temperatures with the last killing frost of spring and the first killing frost of autumn marking its beginning and end.
For most farmers in the U.S., autumn signifies the time when the final harvests of the season take place. Conversely, in parts of the southern U.S. such as here in Florida, the growing season can span the entire year, making it possible for us to eat fresh, seasonal produce all year round!
We’ve all likely heard the concept of eating with the seasons. Some of us may also be familiar with the “Farm to Table" (or “Farm to Fork”) movement. These two ideas hold similar overlapping benefits and intentions and actually go hand-in-hand.
Eating with the season means eating what is naturally growing and harvested at that particular time, and ideally what’s within close range to the location it was grown. Before the days of trucks, trains, planes, and supermarkets, humans were only able to eat with the seasons, and were in natural harmony with what Mother Nature was providing throughout different times of the year. Hydrating and cooling fruits and veggies were readily available during the hot summer months, while hearty and grounding foods such as roots and squashes were ripening just as winter approached. When we consume food in this manner, we reap greater benefits in regards to flavor, freshness and nutritional value. Foods are harvested at peak ripeness and not given the chance to spoil on their short route from farm to market or to plate.
Eating seasonally is also a bonus for your local economy. You can easily support small farmers in your area by shopping at farmers markets and produce stands. Many smaller farms also offer boxes of produce throughout the growing season, referred to as CSA shares (Community Supported Agriculture). These programs provide a variety of whatever the farm grows and is being harvested at that particular time. And they likely offer different options in terms of quantity and frequency of shares, so you can cater to your individual or family’s needs.
The environment also greatly benefits when we buy our foods locally, as it requires fewer resources to ship and store, thus generating far fewer greenhouse gasses.
The Farm to Table movement is a direct partnership between restaurants and farmers, which completely supports the practice of eating seasonally.
Rather than purchasing ingredients through a supplier or from a grocery store, some restaurants deal directly with particular farms. In doing so, they utilize produce that is in season, local, and at its absolute freshest. Like eating seasonally, these partnerships also boost the local economy, and help alleviate strains on the environment caused by long-distance shipping. It’s really a win for everyone, as the restaurant is able to offer the most flavorful and nutritious dishes to their customers and the farmers can depend on and receive local support and recognition for their efforts.
While both eating seasonally and operating Farm to Table establishments have many advantages, they do come with some challenges as well. In places with temperate climates, where the ground freezes and halts the growing season, it may not be possible to consume fresh, local produce year round. Clearly this factor can also hinder the abilities of restaurants to offer Farm to Table menus outside of the growing season.
Luckily, for those of us located in tropical climates, the growing season may be practically year round. In fact, the vegetable season here in South Florida actually runs from November to May.
And so, it happens that just as the rest of the country is bringing this growing season to its end and harvesting the year’s final crops, we here at The Green Pineapple Wellness Cafe are just getting started!
That’s right...this time of year officially marks the beginning of our event season, when we offer monthly Farm-to-Table dinners, serving fresh, local produce from some of South Florida’s best farms!
We are able to design our dinner menus by taking advantage of what is available seasonally and being supplied in our CSA shares incorporating produce from French Farms; herbs, microgreens and flowers from Harpke Family Farm; and produce, turmeric, and eggs from Empower Farms.
Working directly with farmers and their farms allows us to have a much more intimate relationship with our food and where it comes from. We are able to know the people growing our products, and that their ethics and practices are aligned with ours.
We’d love for you to get to know our partners as well, so read on to find out more about these amazing farms!
French Farms, located in Redland, FL (South Florida’s historic agricultural neighborhood) has been growing vegetables on a small scale for communities in southern Florida for ten years now. Though not certified organic, they use only OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed and certified inputs on their crops. They utilize regenerative agricultural practices which focus on minimizing impacts on resources such as water and maintaining and improving soil health through biodiversity, crop rotation, and on-site composting. While the growing season of vegetable crops in South Florida is completely reversed from the rest of the country, Chris French, head of French Farms, believes that “growing with the seasons instead of against them is key to growing flavorful vegetables in hot climates.”
Their produce can be purchased from their market stand at the Legion Park Farmers Market in Miami, and is also available through their CSA program, “The Salad Share”, which runs from October thru April. French Farms is even partnered with several Miami and South Florida area restaurants, supplying produce offered on their Farm to Table menus.
True to their name, Empower Farm’s mission is “to create a working farm that also serves as a sanctuary for people with disabilities” and that’s just what they do. Employing community members with developmental disabilities, Empower Farms takes a permaculture approach to farming, which harmoniously integrates people with the farm’s landscape.
Founded in 2014, and located in Florida City, the farm is certified organic, and grows a diverse array of crops, including turmeric, bamboo, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. They also have a nursery of potted plants and keep free range chickens, who not only provide eggs to sell but help serve the farm through natural composting as well. Goats are utilized in keeping down weeds and strategic areas of their land are dedicated to reestablishing and protecting native plants and trees, such as the South Dade Slash Pine.
Community members are able to enjoy Empower Farm’s seasonal produce and products via their à la carte online store, and through CSA shares, which are available in the Summer and Fall/Winter months and offer the option to include egg delivery.
HARPKE FAMILY FARM:
Harpke Family Farm is an urban farm located in South Florida. They grow specifically for various restaurants, bars, hotels, yachts and cruise lines, partnering directly with their chefs. These partnerships allow them to grow on demand, and only grow what is guaranteed to be sold, delivering their produce within mere hours of harvesting! They grow microgreens, edible flowers, and other specialty items including unique herbs and edible leaves.
Tamer and Claire, founders of Harpke Family Farm, take great pride in their products as well as how they’re grown to utilize soil-based greenhouses, hydroponics, and above-ground grow bags. Only heirloom varieties of non-treated and non-GMO seeds are planted. And not only do they practice sustainability through their natural growing methods, never using synthetic pesticides or herbicides, but also through the use of environmentally-friendly packaging. They collect and reuse pots from their living micros and all of the materials used for shipping are either reusable, compostable or biodegradable. They even use rock dust as insulation for the shipping boxes!
We are incredibly grateful and proud to be able to support these outstanding farms and offer their fresh, delicious, and nutritious produce straight to our community. As we transition from one season to the next, we invite you to join us at our table, and enjoy the season’s farm-fresh harvests.
See below for our list of Farm to Table events, each offering four courses with organic wine pairing:
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | 7:30pm
Feast of the Seven Spices Dinner: Flavors of Morocco and Andalusia
Wednesday, December 13, 2023 | 7:30pm
Bona Furtuna Sicilian Dinner and Heritage Olive Oil Tasting: Land of Sun and Sea featuring the unique wines of Donna Fugata
Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | 7:30pm
The Cook and the Gardner: A tribute to Alice Waters
Wednesday, February 14, 2024 | 7:30pm
Let Them Eat Cake: A Sensuous dinner fit for a Queen
Wednesday, March 13, 2024 | 7:30pm
South Florida Farm Dinner with Santa Julia Bodega
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 | 7:30pm
Ikarian Dinner: A toast to Community & Longevity