San Diego Embraces Farm-to-Table

Farm to table restaurants are cropping up all over San Diego

San Diego is becoming home to a few new restaurants that specialize in serving locally grown produce, a movement known as "farm-to-table."

The movement behind farm-to-table is relatively simple: Restaurants purchase produce and other goods from nearby farms, eliminating the use of a middle man and promoting the concept of eating local.

Activists believe the exhaust and time required to transport produce has an effect on the way that produce tastes. Farm-to-table allows fresher food to get to the consumer without the wear and tear. Buying homegrown produce also reduces a restaurant's carbon footprint - a desirable trait for those reaching out to enviro-friendly consumers.

With San Diego having the largest amount of family farms in the nation, it's easier for restaurants to access local fruits and vegetables.

Brooklyn Girl, opening in Mission Hills on April 15, is one of those restaurants. Owned by San Diego residents Michael and Victoria McGeath, Brooklyn Girl is one of the few restaurants in the area that openly states it is a farm-to-table establishment.

The executive chef, Tyler Thrasher, said using native grown products is challenging him to be more creative in his new venture. With about a month out until their opening date, Thrasher and his sous chef are in the process of looking at the products offered by nearby farms.

Brooklyn Girl has reached out to a group called Specialty Produce in Old Town. The distributor emails the chef which local produce is available each week, allowing the restaurant to plan its menu accordingly.

But there is a drawback - not all products can be sourced out of San Diego.

Once Thrasher's restaurant is up and running, he said he's hoping to stay within San Diego County for all his produce. In the meantime, he’ll have to get a few items out of the area.

While he is letting consumers know about the use of local products, plenty of other San Diego restaurants buy local but don't necessarily promote it.

Thrasher said he noticed establishments in San Diego don't often advertise their use of farm-to-table. With consumers increasingly mindful of what they're eating, he thinks it's a good chance to showcase the availability of local produce.

"I think it's a good opportunity since people are looking,” he said. “San Diego has amazing things that are growing.”

It also allows people to educate themselves on what's in season and promotes sustainable shopping habits. And for the health-conscious San Diegan, it also means eating food with a higher nutritional value.

"There are a lot of healthy people up here, looking for a place where they know what they're putting in their bodies," said Thrasher.

Restaurants embrace farm-to-table is not only because it enhances the taste of the food, but also because it encourages a steady cash flow into the community.

Trey Foshee, a chef-partner at George's at the Cove in La Jolla who has been going to local farms for 14 years, said as restaurants support the area, the community grows.

"Money ends up staying in San Diego County," he said. "It's overall benefiting the restaurant and the community."

The idea is that if the restaurants buy from local farms, the farms are able to expand. When the farms expand, they can sell more produce to chefs and nearby residents. The relationship is symbiotic - ultimately benefiting all those involved.

"It's good to know you're doing something good for someone just down the road," said Thrasher. "Supporting people in our area is important and it comes back ten times fold."

Chino Hills Farm, Griffin Farms and Crow's Pass are a few of the farms in the area that sell food to the local restaurants.

While the push for farm to table has been popular in the last few years, Foshee thinks it's simply people going back to the way things used to be.

"It's not a trend, that's not the way that's it's always been," he said. "We got off track, but we're getting back. Historically that's how it's worked."

Not all restaurants can take advantage of farm-to-table because of logistics and finances. But Foshee said he thinks a variety of San Diego restaurants will continue to lead the charge toward eating local.

"You can't make good food if you can't have great ingredients," he said. "You need to make the special effort to go out there and get those products. As a chef I think it's our duty to go out and find it."

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