Mark Hamstra | Restaurant Hospitality | January 19, 2018

Restaurateurs who operate farms are growing more than just fruits and vegetables. They’re also cultivating the ability to tell stories around the dishes that incorporate their harvests.

Operators have long embraced the cachet that locally sourced ingredients impart upon their menus, and some have learned they can take it a step further by using the yields of their own sustainable farms. Such farm-grown ingredients can serve as both a marketing tool and an educational platform for workers and the public.

At Seattle-based Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches, which operates 13 fast-casual restaurants in the Seattle and San Francisco areas, operating certified organic farms helps the company communicate its position on the role agriculture plays in the environment, said Ben Friedman, co-founder and co-CEO at Homegrown Partners.

“We see big agriculture being a huge contributor to climate change and to a lot of our environmental woes,” Friedman said, citing the use of chemical pesticides as an example.

Homegrown operates two organic farms, one in Woodinville, Wash., that serves its locations in the Seattle area, and another in Discovery Bay, Calif., that serves the company’s San Francisco-area outlets. The farms rotate the crops they grow, with half an acre devoted to crops each year at the Washington farm and two acres of crops each year at the California farm.