RSA Takes Root

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.

Bill Taibe wears his convictions on his chest.

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.”

The Hickories in Ridgefield and Stone Gardens in Shelton are RSA’s 1st mainstay farms.  Soon, Taibe hopes to add milk, cheeses — and maybe protein and livestock — to the list of farms.

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.

9 responses to “RSA Takes Root

  1. The Dude Abides

    I love to hear about these circular economic plans. The government
    and corporate America have nearly destroyed the small farm. These
    restaurants may give them some new hope along with us eaters, better food. Bravo to both the story makers and story teller.

  2. I, too loved the idea of supporting our farms – which was why I signed on for a share with Stone Gardens. Unfortunately, we do not get to choose what we get in our shares as the restaurants do. I have had more than my share of collard greens and kale, to say nothing of garlic. I would have liked to have seen more beans and carrots for example. One week I got four carrots, not even one inch long that someone actually put a rubber band around! We got one week of white beans and that was it. I don’t know that I will buy a share next year.

  3. Love this concept! Really makes sense!!

  4. Bravo to Bill and the rest of the chefs who truly know the culinary secret of great food…it’s the fresh goods from local farms (plus some kitchen skills). Building relationships with the farmer/producers creates a sustainable model that supports a local economy.

  5. Love the idea of RSA. I haven’t heard it called this before but always make a conscious effort to try to support restaurants that are using local produce.

  6. CSA Supporter

    I read that one CSA person above doesn’t like her mix, and that’s understandable. Is there any way in the future to let people give some “preferences” to guide the CSA shares, as Sensible One is talking about? I would love more kale and collard greens and would trade my white beans (starchy) and carrots for them. Would it really be totally troublesome to at least have a list of preferences so that when they put the shares together they could make them more what people want?

  7. Great to get some feedback and suggestions for our CSA, which we started with 32 families 3 years ago. This year 135 families are eating directly from the farm every week. Each year we try to find ways to improve on this incredible model, where we eat all that the farmer has just harvested, with zero waste. Perhaps we can set up a system where people can choose from a few different items to fill their share each week. hmmm, let’s work on that…

  8. we are figuring this out as we go and welcome all comments good and bad. People should realize that we are literally REINVENTING the local food system and doing it for nothing – so patience and support are an important part of the picture. Having said that – with enough support our goal is to evolve both the csa and rsa to more of a co-op model where there are more options and flexibility for the buyer. thank you! d

  9. Pingback: Enjoying The Bounty | 06880