GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The farm-to-table movement in West Michigan is stronger than ever. But how do chefs find the food that ends up on your plate?
A company helping to bridge the gap is FarmLink, which connects local farms to restaurants.
“We streamline that whole process, as in we work with about 50 farms right now — producers, cheese makers, anything that is made around here,” said Gerald Adams, the founder of West Michigan FarmLink.
Chef Chris Perkey owns Osteria Rossa in downtown Grand Rapids and will soon open his second restaurant, Iron, on 25 Ottawa Avenue right across the Van Andel Arena. Food freshness is extremely important to Chef Perkey.
“For years I’ve been sourcing food through farmers. But that usually required calling numerous farmers, making numerous phone calls a week to different people, different farms — trying to figure out what they have, what they don’t have, when they’ll have stuff,” Perkey said.
That is something he no longer needs to do thanks to FarmLink.
“The glory of FarmLink and the genius behind it is they bring that to me now. All I have to do is go online and all the farmers that I’ve been using they post what they have. So I don’t really have to do the leg work guess as to what a farmer carries, what’s coming,” said Perkey.
All of the products FarmLink sells come from local farmers and producers.
Here is how it works: Farmers log onto the website and list the products they have and price. Then the chef logs in and chooses what they want to buy. The farmers get the orders, drop the products off to FarmLink where chefs then pick up their orders.
“It really is if you want fresh product, there is no other way to get fresher product unless you drive to the farm and cut it yourself,” Adams said.
“You just open up the page and you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of products to pick from and you just kind of start wrapping your brain around it,” Perkey said.
Chef Perky says he is able to get around 80 percent of the products he uses in his restaurants through local sources, something both he and his diners love.
“It’s very important to them mostly for the freshness. And for the fact we are keeping the money right here in West Michigan,” said Perky.