A Manhattan-based chain of “fast casual” restaurants has acquired Orient farmland to provide what it calls “farm-to-desk” dining for hungry city office workers and urban foodies.
Fresh & Co., which has 15 locations in Manhattan and plans to open others in Times Square and Hudson Yards, announced Tuesday that it has purchased a working 35-acre farm to grow broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, parsley and more for its dishes.
That land, now dubbed Fresh & Co. Farms, is also home to a herd of Kiko meat and dairy goats, heritage breed Tamworth pigs and over 300 Ameraucana chickens — although the animals are being raised on a trial basis and are not currently part of the menu.
The company did not disclose the selling price of the Main Road farm, which is located on preserved land.
The land was previously leased by the company and farmed by Dan Latham, with whom it has worked for the past five years. He will continue to supervise agricultural operations there, as well as operate his own Orient farm, Latham Farms, nearby.
Mr. Latham, who estimates that about half the produce he grows is sold retail and half sold wholesale, called the relationship a “good situation for a farmer.”
“Since its inception, Fresh & Co. has sourced from local growers and suppliers in order to bring the freshness from the field to a customer’s plate more quickly and responsibly,” Fresh & Co. spokesperson Tiffany Chong said in an email. “Being close to farms means we have better access and can take advantage of what’s in season, while it’s in season, and get it to the city quickly and at its peak to make delicious, locally sourced food more widely available.”
Peconic Land Trust senior adviser Tim Caufield noted that North Fork farms have been supplying New York City restaurants for more than a century, but this business method is a great opportunity to help East End farming stay viable.
“It is exciting to see the investment in farming to grow food,” Mr. Caufield said in an email. “We believe this is an endorsement of the quality of our local agriculture and in the investments the community has made in preserving our local farms for future generations.”
The chain has since installed a large “Fresh & Co.” sign on the roof of a chicken coop on the property and displayed photos of the farm on its website and social media accounts.
The restaurant’s menu offers a seasonal section, which will be 100 percent sourced from the Orient farm, Ms. Chong said.
Current offerings on that menu include a salad made with strawberries, avocado, bacon, red onion, spiced walnuts and feta; an avocado BLT sandwich with avocado, bacon, heirloom tomatoes and mayo; and a “summer superfood blend” served on multigrain bread.
Fresh & Co.’s “chef-inspired organic seasonal food” is free of synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides and other additives and sourced from small farms, according to its website. Fresh & Co., which also uses produce from Satur Farms in Cutchogue, said it will host tours, dinners, cooking classes, culinary educational programs and a “local food and wine festival” on the property, although no additional details were immediately available.
In addition to Fresh & Co., Latham Farms also supplies produce for the New York City-based grocery delivery service Fresh Direct and specialty distributor Baldor Foods.
Known for its superior corn, among other crops, the Latham family farm has been a North Fork stalwart for more than 200 years. It was previously run by Mr. Latham’s late father Ed, who was known for expanding his crops beyond Long Island staples like cauliflower and potatoes.
In 1975, Latham Farms was designated a Century Farm by the New York State Agricultural Society for same-family ownership lasting over 100 years.
Growing food for a restaurant chain is apparently part of a shifting business model for the Orient farm, which had previously leased space for a farm stand in a parking lot in Greenport. That farm stand was discontinued this season.
“It was just downsizing because we’re getting older,” said Mr. Latham’s wife, Patti. “It’s easier to have the one farm stand and deal with wholesalers.”
Courtesy photo: The Manhattan-based restaurant chain Fresh & Co. has purchased a 35-acre farm in Orient to source its seasonal menu.