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Puget Sound Public Radio
(KUOW 94.9)
February 7, 2006
Ruby de Luna

Speed Dating for Chefs and Farmers

You’ve heard of speed dating for singles. Now there’s speed dating for farmers and chefs — not the romantic kind. More than 200 chefs and farmers met in Seattle yesterday to network and to find ways to do business together. It’s the first workshop of its kind in the area. KUOW’s Ruby de Luna has this report.

A MAJOR MATCH IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON CENTER FOR URBAN HORTICULTURE. INSIDE THE CONFERENCE ROOM JENNIFER SUKOVATY AND FARMERS LIKE HER HAVE LINED UP.

REPORTER: “How do you feel right now?”

SUKOVATY: “I’m nervous.”

WOMAN: “Yeah, me, too.”

IN A MOMENT, A GROUP OF BUYERS WILL JOIN THEM. THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY THAT SUKOVATY HAS BEEN WAITING FOR. SHE AND HER HUSBAND GROW BEEF, POULTRY AND PIGS IN WINTHROP, WASHINGTON. THEY’VE BEEN SELLING DIRECTLY TO A FEW FAMILIES. BUT THEY WANT TO BRANCH OUT AND MARKET TO RESTAURANTS. SUKOVATY HANDS A BROCHURE TO CHARLIE MCMANUS, A RESTAURANT OWNER IN TACOMA. FOR THE NEXT EIGHT MINUTES, SHE MAKES HER PITCH.

SUKOVATY: "We are not a standard grass-fed organization. If you look at this our animals are on prime pasture."

MCMANUS: “Okay.”

SUKOVATY: “The grass we have on our 50 acres, we probably have 24 different pastures and they’re rotated."

MCMANUS: “Okay.”

SUKOVATY: “From pasture to pasture.”

MCMANUS SEEMS INTERESTED AND HANDS SUKOVATY A BUSINESS CARD. SHE PROMISES TO SEND HIM A SAMPLE. WITH THE GROWING POPULARITY OF EATING LOCALLY AND ORGANICALLY, YOU’D THINK THAT FARMERS AND CHEFS TALK ALL THE TIME. BUT OFTEN THEY DON’T. ENTER DEBORAH KANE, THE EVENT’S MATCHMAKER. KANE IS WITH ECO-TRUST, A NON PROFIT GROUP IN OREGON. SHE SAYS FARMERS AND CHEFS JUST NEED TO FIND THE RIGHT TIME TO MEET.

KANE: “One of the things that we’re very deliberate about with this conference, for example, is to plan it for a time of year when farmers are actually not typically in their fields. They have more time to come to the city. We’re hosting this event on a Monday when restaurants are typically closed. So you do actually have to be mindful about creating an opportunity for these two halves of the same whole to come together."

KANE HAS SPONSORED SIMILAR SPEED DATING EVENTS AROUND THE COUNTRY. SHE DOESN’T HAVE ANY HARD NUMBERS YET ON HOW MANY BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN FARMS AND RESTAURANTS ARE FORGED. BUT SHE HOPES THESE PARTNERSHIPS WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE SMALL FARMS PROFITABLE AND HELP PRESERVE LOCAL FARM LANDS.

THE MEET AND GREET WINDS DOWN. JENNIFER SUKOVATY WALKS AWAY WITH THREE BUSINESS CARDS AND CONNECTIONS THAT SHE SAYS WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED ON HER OWN.

SUKOVATY: “It’s kind of nice to see that there’s a lot of farmers like us. and the other side is to get to meet these people who are passionate about food and who are passionate about a good product that they then can serve you. And the other side of that is really getting back to it being nutritious and actually getting our society to realize that.”

LATER IN THE WORKSHOP FARMERS AND CHEFS TALK ABOUT THE REALITIES OF THEIR TRADE AND WHAT THEY CAN DO TO MAKE BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS WORK. THIS WON’T BE THE LAST SPEED DATING EVENT IN THE REGION. COMING SOON, A WORKSHOP TO CONNECT CHEFS AND FISHERMEN. I’M RUBY DE LUNA, KUOW NEWS.

© Copyright 2006, KUOW

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