Farmers like to grow things. They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.
Bill Taibe likes to cook. He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.
The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s Colonial Green restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.
Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products. Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.
Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers. They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request. Make no mistake: It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.
Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model currently enjoyed by many Westporters at the Wakeman Town Farm.
RSA is less structured –shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.
Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, plus Wilton’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk) receive a list from local growers of whatever’s ripe.
By 4 p.m. each Monday the chefs respond with their own list: what they want.
The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning; by 2:30 that afternoon GVI volunteers have gathered it, transported it back to Wakeman Farm, and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.
“We sit around there for half an hour talking, eating each other’s tomatoes, and sharing ideas,” Taibe says. “It’s fantastic. Do you know how hard it is to get 5 chefs together any time?”
Then they head back to their restaurants, to cook.
Taibe enjoys working with RSA partners. “There’s a lot of jealousy and competition in this business,” he admits. “But people don’t eat at just 1 restaurant. They go to other places. I prefer they go to places with like-minded owners and chefs.”
Taibe gives huge props to GVI. “They get nothing out of this, other than fulfilling their passion. I only wish to be so good-hearted.”
He also loves the “circular economy” that RSA helps develop.
“This gives hard-working farmers a guaranteed place to sell their products,” Taibe says. “If we can get them delivered to us, they can stay and do what they do best. And not worry about the rest.”
Right now, he says, “We need farmers to trust us, so they can plant what we want. Everyone today grows a lot of the little stuff — kale, bell peppers, whatever’s safe. We want to branch out.
“The key is for us to guarantee we’ll purchase what they buy.”
He hopes to continue the concept through the winter. “Farmers have greenhouses,” he notes. “We’ll keep getting products from around the state.”
RSA is, Taibe says, “a really simple formula. It’s sure to grow.”
And, like all the food prepared and served so freshly and creatively at the 5 RSA restaurants, it will grow with love, care and goodness.