Restaurant diaries is a weekly series starring four different people working in the industry. Every week you will hear from one of them: the bartender, the brand ambassador Jenny Feldt, the wine educator Kyla Peal, the line cook Peter Steckler and the farmer Kristyn Leach. Here Leach reflects on how a relationship with a restaurant enables her to disperse risk and plan for the long term their farm in Winters, California. Read Leach’s first entry in the diary Here.
I have a producer contract with Namu Restaurant Group, a group of three restaurants in San Francisco. This means that they commit to buying one season’s worth of my products from Namu Farmwhich gives me constant cash flow. If I have a crop failure, I can tweak what I grow later in the season to compensate and adapt to the needs of the group. You recently opened a new restaurant. Sunset Squares Pizzaand it has been well received so far! Chef Dennis Lee makes innovative pizzas that use many of my Korean-inspired plants – he makes a Galbi-Jjim pizza. I asked him: “I would like to try a bitter melon pizza. What do you think? ”He said,“ I’m going to make you one, but I don’t think the public will try. ”Now I’m thinking about growing more tomatoes than usual.
When you’re a tenant like me who leases your land, there is little incentive to ask yourself, “What’s best for this plant, farm, and community in 10 years?” Why think about it when people are looking for a flawless product instead of investing in a network of relationships? I’m in the Bay Area and engaging with a farmer in a mostly monogamous relationship isn’t such a good option for chefs. There are so many great farms here and so many farmers’ markets. But with Namu we feel obliged to one another as humans. I don’t really know other farmers who are so closely associated with a restaurant.
Not many farmers are free to say to a restaurant they work in, “I could kill half this crop that you asked for,” and still figure out how to get enough produce for their chef. However, this gives me room to take risks. Sometimes I say to the chefs at Namu Restaurant Group: “This harvest is not great this week, but I think I understand why and we will move it to a good place.” And they agree. Their talent and flexibility as chefs enable me to work long term.