Building, Running & Evolving Farm Fusion
Interview w/ Business Consultant Mike Michalowicz
Bonus: Inside the Evolution of the Victory Lunch Club Infrastructure
Building A Farm Fusion Menu Through the Lens of Craven Local Food Market
People love pizza, ramen, and tacos
No surprise, right? It’s almost as universal as America’s love for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. That said, one big, common mistake in business—and one that I am fully aware of—is trying to be everything to everybody. With the marketplace so full of options, if you’re not known for something, good luck getting noticed. The world of commerce is so crowded with options, becoming known for something specific is more important than ever.
So how does one create a food brand that is known for a singular thing while still doing everything?
We hear the term fusion a lot in the food industry. The trendiness of blending food from different regions or cultures continues, as does our global interconnectedness.
I love food from all over the world. Picking one or two favorites would be very hard for me. My palate almost requires I eat cuisine from a different part of the world every single day of the week, and the Craven Local Food Market highlights this.
So when I think about the cafe, and my own personal taste, I don’t really want to specialize in any one single thing. Not only do I enjoy the variety and seasonality, it’s a bit more practical for sustainable living. I figure if the quality of our offerings can remain consistently great, people will come along for the ride with us for the seasonal changes. By blending that sense of nostalgia for the past through seasonal ingredients with the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world, we can take a realistic and practical approach toward a flavorful and sustainable food future.
And this is where the term farm fusion clicked for me.
What’s great about farm fusion is that the bulk of the ingredients are those that are grown locally, shift seasonally, and still be interchangeable among the best from various cultures. All the greens, carrots, microgreens, root crops, and herbs that I can manage plus what’s available around me locally serve as the base for an endless variety of Mexican, Asian, Thai, Indian, and Mediterranean foods. All these cuisines make heavy use of similar vegetables and herbs that mostly vary in their spices and preparation.
So instead of McDonalds or Arby’s consistently serving the same junk all over the world, I envision a type of cafe owned by any mixture of farmers, farmchefs, or restaurateur/farmer partnerships using seasonal ingredients and creating locally grown, internationally inspired meals from all over the world with a farm fusion experience.
Our Weekly Schedule Running Craven Local Food Market
This is to give you more understanding and insight into our day to day activities and to help you consider and visualize what your own will look like.
Tuesday – Weekly Menu goes up (~30 min.)
Wednesday – Farm update & ordering reminders on social media (~30 min.)
Thursday – midnight preordering window closes (0 min.)
Friday – we collate the orders, build the ingredients list (what to harvest, what to buy), notify farmers of needs (~2 hours)
Saturday – harvesting, farmers market purchase, store purchase (½ day)
Sunday – cooking all day (all day)
Monday – some dessert & snack prep, organizing & executing deliveries (all day)
All in all about 3 full days by two people maintaining a 30-50 order weekly customer base. This doesn’t include the actual building & maintaining of the farm itself, which will vary with your goals and level of support.
It also doesn’t include admin or customer service, which will vary on how you scale and how well you design your systems and website. We collectively spend no more than an hour or two a week each on customer service or admin duties.
Your relationship to a commercial kitchen will have a high variable time or financial commitment. We are renting an entire building, so our time commitment is higher since we need to maintain the place, including servicing the equipment.
What We’ve Grown to Support Our Weekly Menu
(cavet: we are nowhere close to perfect, we have a long way to go, and we still supplement some of these same items until we can optimize our farms to our ideal subscriber base, which in farming, will never be a ‘finished’ plan.)
Fruits – fruit trees, grapes, rasp, strawberries, (BSF/LxL)
Greens– hoop house w/ on & off shade cloth (BSF/LxL)
Herbs – grow rack to escape seasonality (CLFM)
Eggs – ducks & chickens (BSF/LxL)
Root Crops – carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes in beds (LxL)
Flowers – grow bags & wild flower garden patches (BSF/LxL)
Microgreens – on grow rack (CLFM)
Summer’s Bounty – we grow whatever we can knowing we don’t need a ton of any single thing, other local producers will have seasonal items when we need it. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, squash, we do what we can. LittlexLittle always seem to be picking odd edible foods no one else has ever heard of from their expanding ‘food forest’.
Local farms we buy from on a weekly basis: Beaufort County Organics, Locavore Market & farmers at the New Bern Farmers Market. There are others we source from on a less consistent basis.
A Farm Fusion Menu Building Guide
How We Approached It at the Craven Local Food Market Cafe
It starts with, what we grow or source locally? What products can we make from that?
Each one of these items includes something we have available to us locally, or are building systems towards growing those ingredients ourselves for most of the year.
The key to building a great Farm Fusion menu is understanding you have the WORLD of flavors and styles to choose from, so a diverse and interesting menu can be built with very little.
For example, we had a core of ingredients used across our ramen, pizza and tacos. It’s the preparation and spice that change, not necessarily the base ingredients.
Our Typical Menu:
Soda: Ginger Beer
Kombucha: Green Tea & Raspberry
Tea: Green Tea w/ Mint & Honey, Various seasonal infusions
Pickles: Refrigerator Pickles / Farmers Choice Veg
Microgreen Salad: Buckwheat, Pea & Sunflower microgreens w/ pickled carrots & onions w/ seasonal dressing
Hummus w/ crackers
Fruit & Chia Parfait
Ramen – w/ base of greens, cilantro, green onion, egg seasonal: carrots, cabbage
Tacos – w/ base of cilantro, green onion, eggs (breakfast), meat, rice, slaw & salsa
Pizza – w/ seasonal toppings or meat
Ice Cream – w/ coconut milk & seasonal fruit
Store bought products we’ve found hard to avoid in the name of short/medium term practicality
coconut milk (for vegan menu items), flour, cooking oils, spices, oats, cocoa, rice & rice noodles, beans, masa
Easiest room for improvement in-house
stevia, honey, sprouts, fruit, preserved/canned items
Local products not using regularly due to too high prices
beef, dairy/cheese & oils
seafood, zone 8a
hurricanes/flooding, BBQ culture, rural
What we can depend on locally
seafood, pork, chicken, Zone 8A crops
Could do but don’t do
Desserts & snacks with locally produced dairy, due to the added regulations (HACCP) for resale.
Next: Commercial Kitchens & Food Trucks
A Balanced Farm Fusion Ecosystem Checklist
Designing A Farm Fusion Future
Planning Your Life Within Farm Fusion
Subscriptions & Online Storefronts
Building, Running & Evolving Farm Fusion
Commercial Kitchens & Food Trucks