Farm to Table: The Greenbrier Experience

By Jeff Kmiec President & Managing Director, The Greenbrier | October 30, 2011

Imagine a magnificent salad so fresh that the ingredients were harvested just a few hours before. Or a milk-fed veal chop accompanied by a naturally-raised spring vegetable ragout. Or homemade pasta topped with a savory tomato sauce made with pesticide-free vegetables from a nearby farm. The farm-to-table movement is more than a culinary trend, it is a revolution in the way we dine.

For years, we’ve been hearing more and more about the importance of naturally-raised, organic food products. Farmers’ markets, rooftop and community gardens have grown in popularity and chefs around the country are capitalizing on their restaurant gardens to attract new customers. Sustainable agriculture has created healthier eating habits and improved local economies, but how can the hospitality industry fully embrace this movement?

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Chef Critchfield makes a quick trip to the
garden for some fresh turnips

The Greenbrier, a 710-room resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, has found a way to take farm-to-table to the next level with The Greenbrier Farm, with the help of resort owner Jim Justice. Justice, who owns 50 different companies, has several agricultural operations in states along the East Coast. Shortly after purchasing the resort in 2009, he set aside 44 acres of his land in nearby Eagle Rock, Virginia as the site of the resort’s farm. Located about one hour from the resort, the farm grows over 70 varieties of vegetables solely for the resort’s dining venues. In season, the farm provides over 75% of the produce for The Greenbrier Restaurant Collection’s nine outlets including a traditional resort dining room, steakhouse, Italian restaurant and sushi bar.

Jeremy Critchfield, vice president of food and beverage and corporate chef for The Greenbrier, is a longtime proponent of the farm-to-table concept. “The Greenbrier Farm is amazing on so many levels. As a chef, I think it is simply incredible to be able to prepare food that is only an hour out of the ground. How often do you have that opportunity? Our goal is to provide each guest with an extraordinary culinary experience at every meal, and the vegetables from our very own farm help make that possible,” said Critchfield. “This is the way food is meant to be.”

The new initiative is also environmentally sound. The Greenbrier Farm uses drip irrigation with water from the nearby James River. This process applies slow, steady and precise amounts of water and nutrients to specific areas. This saves on water and improves plant growth. The eco-friendly system is also fertilizer and pesticide-free.

As the farm-to-table movement matures, so, too does our knowledge of its benefits. Oregon-based Plate & Pitchfork is one of many organizations in the United States offering dinners on local farms. In a 2008 USA Today feature, co-founder Erika Polmar said that today, diners "are much more informed. People are paying far more attention to how their food is being raised, processed and how it gets to their table."

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