With all of this warm weather, it definitely feels like summer. But it isn’t yet. And for local farmers, it’s still too early to produce local crops. And that means restaurant owners using locally sourced food are still looking for new solutions to get through the trickiest time of year: the long, cold winters. But now Farm to Table Restaurants are getting farmers to consider new methods for supplying produce in the lean months.
When you walk into Republic, a small bistro in downtown Manchester, you notice the large and colorful chalk board at the front. It lists the many farms the restaurant sources from. There are fish, eggs, greens, and chicken. In 2011, Republic became the first restaurant to be “certified local” by the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection. Co-owner and chef, Ed Aloise started the restaurant with his wife, and says he strives not to serve food grown outside a 50 mile radius.
“What it is really is a resurgence and a re-recognition of not only how to support and eat better food but how to culturally integrate what’s going on out there to what’s going on in here and in your home.” Aloise explains.
Sounds great, but it isn’t easy. New Hampshire’s short growing season makes providing locally sourced food a challenge, as Joe Stanislaw is finding out.
“It’d be fantastic if we had access 12 months a year to local product.” Joe says. “Right now we’re using the hot house tomatoes if you will, and I know in a little while I’m going to have these gorgeous fresh heirloom tomatoes that my customers will be able to enjoy, but we also know there’s going come another point in time where we don’t have them for a few months.”
About three weeks ago, Stanislaw opened Joe’s at the Grove, a locally sourced restaurant in Peterborough. In New Hampshire, we’ve just made it through another harsh winter, and we’re still a ways out from harvesting summer crops, and that means restaurant owners like Stanislaw and Aloise have to get produce from California and other warm climates, not overseas, but definitely not in that 50 mile radius.
Larry Pletcher, owner of the Vegetable Ranch in Warner has been supplying Republic’s kitchens for 6 years. He grows through August then stops production for the rest of the year. But he says as business from local restaurants increase, he’s thinking of expanding. Pletcher says he’s looking into heating a greenhouse with propane in the winter in order to keep the greens sprouting.
“There’s some possibility we can extend that season longer than we have in the past, almost all year round, maybe not totally year round, but maybe 10 months out of the year.”
As more local farmers follow in Pletcher’s footsteps, they will continue to find ways to work around cold winters and long springs.
That is, as long as New England diners are demanding ripe tomatoes in May.