Greyrock Farm joins forces with Utica restaurant menu
The growing season is a few months away, but Matt Volz, manager of Greyrock Farm, 6100 E. Lake Road, Cazenovia, and Tim Hardiman, owner and executive chef of The Tailor and the Cook, 94 Genesee St., Utica , already have visions of asparagus, tomatoes, green vegetables, peppers, potatoes and more.
Greyrock is a 300 acre farm that offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership year round. Tailor and the Cook is a 48-seat farm-to-table restaurant with an emphasis on the local. The restaurant, named one of the nation’s top 100 restaurants by online reservations provider OpenTable, offers a new menu every week. In season, 85% of the perishable ingredients that Hardiman uses in the restaurant are of local origin: products, meats, cheeses, eggs, dairy products and other ingredients.
The farmer and the restaurateur have been doing business together for five years. Volz travels to Utica once or twice a week to deliver meat and veg to the restaurant and pick up bread from Utica Bread (also owned by Hardiman) to sell at the Greyrock farm store. This winter, Greyrock and The Tailor and the Cook took their relationship to another level by engaging in an RSA (Restaurant Supported Agriculture) partnership.
RSA is a larger-scale version of the traditional CSA model, which helps farmers better plan their growing seasons and gives them an injection of money because members pay up front for the food they will receive. The RSA partnership means The Tailor and the Cook prepaid some of the products they will be using this season instead of purchasing them.
âThis is a huge advantage for us and we are delighted to have this partnership,â Volz said. “They give us a list of things that they really want us to do, including some things that we haven’t developed before, and we’re really excited about that.”
Greyrock meat and fresh produce are on the menu at several local restaurants, including the Empire Farmstead Brewery and the Empire Brewing Company. But this is the farm’s first RSA collaboration. Volz is studying the seed catalogs and preparing to place orders. He estimates that he will dedicate two to three acres to Greyrock for The Tailor and the Cook. âIt’s a relatively small restaurant, so it’s not a huge volume of stuff,â Volz says.
Usually, farmers take the gamble of growing a wide variety of crops, then âput on the sales hatâ and attempt to sell it to restaurants as soon as it becomes available. The growing season is unpredictable, as are sales. It’s common, Volz says, to get paid weeks after picking up or delivering products.
For The Tailor and the Cook, Volz and his team will grow everything from asparagus to zucchini and some things they don’t normally grow, including broccoli rabe, purple skinned potatoes Peter Wilcox, Stortino de Trento ( a variety of ancient beans from Italy), funky radishes and squash, and as many storage crops as possible.
On a gloomy winter day when snow was piling up outside, Hardiman said he was looking forward to the super mild spring parsnips, planted in Greyrock last season and ‘overwintering’ on the frost edge, which Volz will harvest and deliver to the Tailor and Cook in early spring.
For Hardiman, the partnership with Greyrock on RSA makes sense on several levels. The restaurant works with about 50 local producers and several local suppliers, which represents many emails, phone calls and texts, as well as checks to be sent by post. Logistics are difficult. Its objective is to rationalize part of its supplies and purchases to make restaurant management a little easier. The restaurant is now open for dinner six evenings a week, offering a new menu each week and a chef’s tasting menu in the evenings.
âI want to talk to the farmer,â says Hardiman. âI want to visit the farm. I always feel like I’m one step away. For me, as a farm-to-table restaurant, it makes sense to put my money where my mouth is and walk around and not just talk.
It’s time to sign up for CSAs
If you’ve ever considered joining a local CSA, now is the time to take action. CSA National Day is Friday February 24.
CSA details, offerings, stock sizes and payment options vary from farm to farm. Some, like Early Morning Farm in Cayuga County; Main Street Farms, Cortland; Grindstone Farm, Pulaski; and Common Thread Farm and Hartwood Farm in Madison County have CSA drop-off locations throughout central New York City. Others involve a visit to the farm for pickup, which also has its benefits. Some farms welcome help from volunteers and you may be able to visit a cow or horse barn.
Boxed stocks were the norm, but farms today offer more flexible options. Greyrock Farm transitioned to a market type ASC several years ago. Members deposit a deposit, set up an account ($ 500 minimum) and shop at the market-style farm store when it suits them. Members at the $ 500 level receive a 5 percent discount on Greyrock products and grass-fed meats.
The Greyrock Farm store, open to the public, is open all year round: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Some farmers offer incentives for early registration with CSA. Main Street Farms in Cortland is offering 5% off the stock price to customers who sign up for CSA by Wednesday, March 1. Hartwood Farm, Chittenango, is offering an early discount of $ 10 for shares purchased and paid in full by March. 15.
âWe accept CSA registrations early in the season so it helps us plan what and how much to grow,â says Main Street Farms co-owner Allan Gandelman. âRight now we are placing our seed order and getting ready to start the plants in the greenhouses. “
For more information on some of the CSAs in central New York, visit localharvest.org/syracuse-ny/csa.