Societal demands on farmers and ranchers are increasing these days. Consumers want to know more about where their food comes from. For many, the ideal includes buzzwords such as: local, organic, all-natural, family farm, sustainable, ethical, and safe. On the flip side is the notion that big farms aren’t family farms; they’re factories. But one 37,000-head dairy farm in Fair Oaks, IN, is changing the way people see food.
"We are the farm, and we are the table," says Christopher Turner, Fair Oaks Farm executive chef, in an interview with JConline.
Fair Oaks has started a new farm-to-fork restaurant called the Farmhouse. It’s an 18,000-sq.-ft. building that looks like an old-fashioned farmhouse, complete with wraparound porch and stone fireplace. The restaurant serves 800-1,200 people/day, using pork and dairy products produced right on the Fair Oaks farm.
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According to the article, “Roughly half of the ingredients used in the Farmhouse are produced at Fair Oaks. The Asiago, gouda, and mozzarella used in the barbecue shrimp flatbread ($11), for example, all come from Fair Oaks cows, as does the milk used in Fair Oaks Farms ice cream ($5). The bacon on the Farmhouse burger ($11) and the pork on the tenderloin sandwich ($10) are from Fair Oaks pigs.”
What makes this place really interesting is that customers can watch calves being born when they come to eat. There are 120 new calves born daily, so there are plenty of opportunities to see a live birth. Guests can also tour the dairy and pork facilities, as well as learn about how the entire place is powered -- through the manure the cattle produce.
“People are conscious of what they eat. They want transparency and sustainability," says Carl Bruggemeier, Fair Oaks managing partner.
The 32,000-acre business is hardly one that fits that “ideal” of a small family farm, and yet people flock to see the livestock, tour the facilities, and taste the food. Although I’ve never been to Fair Oaks, when I ran across this story on Facebook the other day, I must admit I was truly impressed to see how a large farm is finding so much acceptance with today’s consumer and is connecting with folks from pasture to plate.
We can all make efforts to follow their lead -- albeit on a much smaller scale -- but by being transparent, Fair Oaks doesn’t have to be small, organic or serve only locally produced food. By being themselves and focusing on the great work they do in producing food, they are giving folks an understanding of where their food comes from.
How do you think we can better connect with our consumers and meet society’s demands while feeding a growing planet? Do you think Fair Oaks is on to something? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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