We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.” ~ Wendell Berry
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Farmer Tony Root (Anthony Schaden is his family name). If you’ve dined at any of the 9 marvelous restaurants within the Bartmann Group this summer, you’ve more than likely experienced the outcome of Tony’s endeavors. Tony is the farmer in charge of planting, growing and harvesting the bountiful produce exclusively for this restaurant group. Kim Bartmann leases a 1 acre plot at Riverbend Farm* in Delano, MN and Tony skillfully tends to all of it. Tony works with the chef’s to coordinate the distribution of the produce to all of these establishments during the summer/fall months. Kim Bartmann and her team have created a true farm-to-table framework that has been scaled to meet their demand.
I can say with certainty that Tony is a true craftsman. The end result of his efforts appear on diners plates in the form beautiful dishes that are created with flavorful produce, grown in the most sustainable ways and with the utmost care.
There is a distinct aspect of composition and artistry that comes with farming. Possessing expansive knowledge regarding soil types, growing methods and what does and does not work well together is crucial. After spending the morning touring with Tony, it was evident that his farming expertise is vast. Tony utilizes row planting and companion planting methods to maximize growth on this acre of land. First plantings didn’t happen until early June due to weather challenges, but despite the delayed beginnings, everything appears to be flourishing.
Companion Planting: The use of plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators, deter unwanted pests, and offer shelter and food for other critters. The plants provide each other things they need, be that nutrients, shade, or physical support.
Row Planting: Seeding in rows allows individual plants more space to grow, reduces competition for water and nutrients, and makes weeding and harvesting easier. The enhanced airflow in the field reduces fungal disease and the resulting losses of yield.
~Notes To Broadcasters, 2014
See the photo gallery below for just some of what is grown here. Hover over the images for produce descriptions.
The Chef’s at each restaurant are in regular communication with Tony. Once he advises them as to what is being harvested, they place their orders. Each restaurant functions separately and they can plan their individual menus according to what is seasonally available.
Most of us derive a great deal of pleasure just thinking about food, about what our next meal might be. But do we really think about where the ingredients for this meal actually originated? About the farmers who grew it and the hours of intense work that went into developing it? I often hear comments from people lamenting the price of produce, but when we begin to understand the amount of effort that goes into nourishing us, I believe there will be a re-definition of that cost-value interpretation. The ability to trace the chain of events from seedling to chef to table is a marvelous thing.
In my mind this is a model farm to fork structure. One where you know your grower, where you can say with certainty that the ingredients for your dish were cultivated locally and in a way that is environmentally friendly. In this instance, the transportation and ecological costs to get the produce from the farm to your plate are minimal. Eating and sipping at restaurants that you know are sourcing from nearby farms is one of the best examples of living sustainably and it’s a fantastic way for us as individuals to champion a healthy food system. I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it…We vote for a healthier planet one choice at a time. I envision a world where the caretakers of our food supply are increasingly revered by consumers.
“Nine Restaurants. Every one impossible without the farmers and producers that make each menu possible” ~ Bartmann Group Website
*Riverbend Farm has been owned by Greg and Mary Reynold’s for 25 years. They supply produce for local restaurants, CSA subscriptions, schools and food co-ops. Tony credits Greg as an extremely valuable mentor.
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