I love tomatoes….nothing speaks local like a great tasting, juicy tomato picked at the height of ripeness!! So, of course we wanted to make sure all of our guests enjoy that home grown favorite. But as you know, these global orbs tend to also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, which makes it difficult to execute for a company with as many locations as we have. We needed to make sure our local farmers could deliver tomatoes that had a consistent size and shape.
So this past winter, with snow still falling and fields still frozen, I got in my car and visited with a few of our farmers. Two of the farmers were in western PA: Art King from Harvest Valley Farms (http://www.harvestvalleyfarms.com/) and Don Brenckle from Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses (http://www.brenckle.com/). During this meeting, we talked about the importance of the consistent size and shape of our tomatoes…but we also couldn't lose the fantastic, fresh taste that is the hallmark of a locally produced vegetable. As I sat at the kitchen table at Art’s house and stood in the greenhouse at Don’s, we leafed through numerous seed catalogues to find that seed that would produce the perfect tomato for Eat’n Park.
Since we have restaurants stretching from Ohio through Central PA, it was necessary to partner with a farmer in the East that would be willing to meet these same specifications. The most logical choice was Steve Groff, a farmer that I met 6 years ago at the PASA (http://www.pasafarming.org/) conference in State College, PA. Steve welcomed the business and is now supplying our eastern restaurants with tomatoes from Cedar Meadow Farms (http://www.cedarmeadowfarm.com/) in Holtwood, PA.
What I like best about featuring local tomatoes is freshness of the product. Our tomatoes go from the vine to the plate in our restaurants in less than three days!!! That is the only way to keep the wonderful fresh taste. My only regret is that the season is too short. But don’t fret; I’m working on that…
Director of Sourcing & Sustainability