Farm Restaurants Are All the Rage

Small-farm owners discover a way to serve locally grown items to a public clamoring for more fresh food.

| March/April 2012

  • Joe's Farm Grill
    Diners flock to Joe's Farm Grill in Gilbert, Arizona, for fast-food favorites made with local, natural or organic ingredients.
    Courtesy Joe Johnston
  • Joe's Farm Grill Condiments
    Condiments like cocktail sauce, relish and barbecue sauce are created with ingredients sourced from the on-site urban farm.
    Courtesy Joe Johnston
  • Joe's Farm Grill Logo
    Joe's Farm Grill opened for business in 2006, and the iconic neon sign beckons locals and visitors alike.
    Courtesy Joe Johnston
  • J.L. Hawkins Farm
    A father and son order a pizza from the takeout window at the J.L. Hawkins farm, where customers can watch the pizzas being assembled and baked in a wood-fire oven.
    Sarah Miller
  • Jeff Hawkins
    Owner Jeff Hawkins hand stretches pizza dough made from flour milled at Greenfield Mills in nearby Howe, Indiana.
    Sarah Miller
  • Volunteers
    A team of volunteers and family members may assemble more than 100 pizzas each night.
    Sarah Miller
  • J.L. Hawkins Barn
    The Hawkins farm is home to cows, chickens, pigs and various crops.
    Sarah Miller
  • GRIT
    Gritty loves to grill local steaks.
    Brad Anderson
  • Restaurant at Elderberry Pond
    The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond is located near the center of the Lego family's 100-acre farm in Auburn, New York.
    Courtesy Victor Messier
  • Lego Family Restaurant at Elderberry Pond
    The interior was built using local materials.
    Courtesy Lou Lego

  • Joe's Farm Grill
  • Joe's Farm Grill Condiments
  • Joe's Farm Grill Logo
  • J.L. Hawkins Farm
  • Jeff Hawkins
  • Volunteers
  • J.L. Hawkins Barn
  • GRIT
  • Restaurant at Elderberry Pond
  • Lego Family Restaurant at Elderberry Pond

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and on his farm he had a … restaurant? That’s right: Farm restaurants are sprouting across the nation. This dining trend makes sense as more consumers insist on fresh, local food. “Hyper-local” (for example, restaurant gardens, do your own butchering) was listed as one of the Top 5 trends in 2011 by The National Restaurant Association. “Locally sourced meats and locally grown produce” also made the Top 5.

Colleges and universities are responding to the growing interest in farm-to-fork dining by offering fieldwork for culinary students. Colorado’s Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, for example, now offers a five-week off-campus externship that takes students to work on farms and ranches, as well as in wineries and restaurants.

For small family and hobby farmers, operating restaurants supplements unpredictable incomes and connects farmers to the community. Farmers not only find it fiscally wise, but many find reward in sharing their bounty and educating people about farming. In fact, farm tours are often part of the dining experience.

While many farm restaurants share a commitment to fresh, sustainable philosophies, the types of restaurants vary widely. Across the country, meals range from rustic, down-home cooking to elegant, gourmet destinations, and the restaurants from alfresco-seasonal to year-round dining establishments. Here are a few examples.



Joe's Farm Grill in Arizona

Farmer Joe Johnston was faced with a dilemma. He could either sell out to urban sprawl or preserve part of his family farm and share it with the growing community of Gilbert, Arizona. Johnston chose the latter, and that decision has served him well.

Joe’s Farm Grill serves more than 1,400 burgers a week and has received rave reviews on the Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Johnston converted his 1960s boyhood home into a fun, trendy grill that serves ribs, pizza and the signature “Cheeseburger Built for Two.” Arizona beef burgers are topped with crisp Johnston farm vegetables.






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