Steve Tomlinson manages Great Road Farm just four miles from downtown Princeton, New Jersey. Making its home on 112 acres, Great Road Farm has over seven acres in vegetable production in close partnership with Agricola restaurant in Princeton. A graduate of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Steve worked for artists Christo and Jeane Claude to build an expansive installation titled “The Gates” in Central Park, and managed a warehouse before starting over working on farms after the 2008 financial crash. We talk about how Steve leveraged his background outside of agriculture into managing Great Road Farm, the joys and challenges of working for a farm that is owned by a restaurateur, and the nuts and bolts of working with the chefs and restaurant to meet their needs and the farm’s.
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Quotes from the Show
It’s very difficult to sell to restaurants unless you have a real relationship.
If a chef comes out to the field and sees all of the produce that I’m talking about, he’s like, okay, we’re going to make this work.
The better the communication, the better the relationship is.
There’s a lot of education involved to understand how the chefs work and how they order and what they’re expecting.
Just the reality of local produce that’s not coming from California, you need to find the right chef who can work with that and use it as a strength for the restaurant.
On things that he’s learned in his chef’s cooler: It’s mostly how people pack things and how they store them, as well… how they use a carrot, are they peeling it, are they dicing it…
Back then, I tried to use the word beyond organic, and that pissed off a lot of people off. I didn’t really realize what I was doing… if you want this movement to move forward, and you move this way, then you should just go ahead and do it.
I made the decision that I’m going to get certified organic and I’m going to support NOFA-New Jersey and the movement here.
I look at farming as a whole systems design. It just really fell into place.
Steve talked about using the app Slack for communication with the chefs at Agricola.
Steve mentioned that Great Road is selling to Fresh Nation. https://freshnation.com/
Steve’s favorite tool on the farm is his multi-tool, the Leatherman Skeletool.
Steve’s favorite resources are Growing for Market, Acres USA, and the Farmer to Farmer Podcast.
We didn’t talk about it in the show, but here’s a video that gives a nice overview of the farm: