Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill on the fallacy, or rather the inadequacy of, the farm-to-table dining ethos as a means to economic change. When done right, farms will rotate crops on different fields to be able to produce the items popular at the moment (in this case emmer wheat). Focusing on and buying only these items doesn’t give the farms much breathing room.
Standing in Klaas’s fields, I saw how single-minded I had been. Yes, I was creating a market for local emmer wheat, but I wasn’t doing anything to support the recipe behind it. Championing Klaas’s wheat and only his wheat was tantamount to treating his farm like a grocery store. I was cherry-picking what I most wanted for my menu without supporting the whole farm.
Back at the restaurant, I created a new dish called “Rotation Risotto,” a collection of all of Klaas’s lowly, soil-supporting grains and legumes, cooked and presented in the manner of a classic risotto. I used a purée of cowpea shoots and mustard greens to thicken the grains and replace the starchiness of rice. As one waiter described the idea, it was a “nose-to-tail approach to the farm” — an edible version of Klaas’s farming strategy.