Farm to Fork Dinner: Getting Started With On-Farm Food Services

Four steps to navigate and grow your farm business into the world of farm to fork dinners and on-farm food services.

| September/October 2016

  • Farm-to-fork dinners are gaining in popularity.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • Consider the atmosphere you want to create on your farm to help you determine the type of cuisine you’d like to serve.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • Paradise Farms partnered with area chefs to cater their on-farm dinner.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • Farm pizza is a fantastic way to showcase the fresh ingredients from your farm.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • The farm-to-table is a model many farmers hope to share with their community.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • Is a wood-fired pizza in an informal setting more your style?
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • Doing all the cooking on the farm will require a commercial kitchen and must follow food-safety standards.
    Photo by John Ivanko
  • The "pizza farm" is a popular concept.
    John Ivanko
  • Before diving right into obtaining certifications and licensing for serving food on the farm, host a few trial run potlucks to work out the details of your on-farm food venture.
    Photo by John Ivanko

Does the image of people dining al fresco – with a view of your blooming herb gardens … while savoring meals made with your farm-raised ingredients … while connecting to a quintessential rural experience – bring a smile to your face? What if these folks were paying guests who added income to your farm’s bottom line?

If the idea of cultivating some green – as in cash flow – from dining options among the beautiful green surroundings of your farm and fields appeals to you, you’re on the path of a hot culinary trend.

According to the National Restaurant Association, which tracks top food trends every year, their 2016 list is dominated by local food and farm-fresh themes, from diners looking for locally sourced and grown meats and produce to prioritizing environmental sustainability.

While on-farm dining grows in demand and can be an appealing way to diversify farm income, the reality of navigating state regulations and bringing such a start-up to life can present challenges that often come with a hefty commercial kitchen price. Before you invest a dime, do your research and appropriate due diligence. Here are four steps to get you started in launching your potential on-farm food venture:

1. Start with a potluck.

Think long and hard about what your ultimate objective is in gathering folks on your farm to share a meal. If success to you at the end of the evening involves bringing people together and creating community around the table, consider keeping it a simple potluck. Most states even have legislation defining and legalizing a potluck. This means that whenever people voluntarily gather to share food and no money is exchanged, such events are not subject to state inspection or licensing.

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