A Year In The Making Agra-CULTURE: A Farmer’s Perspective

Farm to Table – Working to Sustain an Artisanal Food Community

Finnriver Farm

Supporting local farmers is a high priority for the Fireside Restaurant’s management team, and the commitment goes beyond just buying local!  In today’s post, Director of Food & Beverage James Robinson explains how the Fireside is partnering with local growers.

 Nestled against the sea and just minutes from East Jefferson County’s agricultural heartland, Port Ludlow is in a prime location to benefit from the bounty the area has to offer. From vegetables, to cheese, to fishmongers and bakers, there’s no shortage of highly quality goods. However, years ago the management team at the Resort At Port Ludlow’s Fireside Restaurant decided that it isn’t enough to simply purchase the goods. If we believe in helping to foster and sustain an active farming and artisanal food community – which we do – then we decided we must do more. We must lead.

Executive Chef Dan Ratigan
To that end, Dan Ratigan, our executive chef, convened a farmer and restaurateur summit this spring. The idea was to gather all the players in the same room in an attempt to solve some of our most vexing delivery and distribution challenges. One of the summit’s goals was to work toward creating predictability in the market by cajoling other restaurateurs into committing to sourcing a variety of products from area farms. With commitments, farmers could grow crops with the assurance that there was a willing buyer, or market, for their goods.

 Although the farmer-restaurateur summit drew a tepid response from the area restaurant community, the farmers were ecstatic. Moreover, the afternoon galvanized our resolve to stay front-runners in the Peninsula’s farm to table movement — and not because it’s the trendy thing to do. But because the quality of the goods available here are unsurpassed; because it’s the right thing to do for the environment, because it’s the right thing to do for the local economy and the community and because it allows us to offer a menu we are extremely proud of. As a rule, our menu and business plan make the use of locally grown, locally produced, locally foraged and locally fished products paramount.

SpringRain Farm Chickens
In that regard, we are working with SpringRain Farm to develop a market for poussins – or young chickens. Although these chickens take a prominent place on our menu, we hadn’t found a local source – until now. As our relationship develops and we commit to SpringRain Farm, they are assured they have an outlet for their products and we are assured we have a source for a coveted menu item.

Chef Dan’s friend, Graham Kerr, Visits Red Dog Farm 
The same holds true for Red Dog Farm in Chimacum. Before planting began last year Karyn Williams and Ratigan sat down with seed catalogues in order to ensure she grew crops with a guaranteed market.  We committed to rows, she committed to us. And now, fresh produce arrives daily, our relationship with Red Dog Farm is thriving and we are proud to showcase her high quality produce on our menu.

Just down Center Valley Road from Red Dog Farm lies Finnriver Farm – our sole source for eggs. Like Red Dog Farm, our partnership with Keith and Crystie Kisler runs deep. In addition to continually developing outlets at the Resort for their goods, our most recent project includes creating a roster of agri-tourism events and activities for Resort guests.

But partnerships, relationships and excellence grow in baby steps and it’s taken us years to get us where we are.  First you’ve got to plant the seeds and hope they germinate. Then you hope for conditions favorable for the production of strong healthy crops. Once the seedlings burst through the soil, they must be nurtured in order to produce.

As a business and organization, we have forged fast friendships and strong partnerships with the Olympic Peninsula’s premier growers but stay tuned, because we are not finished. Our seeds have sprouted, but there is still much to do to ensure that East Jefferson County becomes the epicenter of the state’s farm-to-table and locavore food movements – and not because it is trendy, but because it is the right thing to do. See you at the next farm and restaurateur summit!
About Port Ludlow Resort
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