Video: David Kinch and Cynthia Sandberg at MAD3

It’s not uncommon these days for restaurants to have partnerships with nearby farms, but chef David Kinch of Manresa Restaurant and Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms were among the first to do it in the States. In their presentation from MAD3, Sandberg and Kinch walk the audience through every step of the process of developing an exclusive relationship between a restaurant and a farm, and discuss the rewards and challenges that are part of such an arrangement.

Kinch describes how visiting chef Alain Passard’s orchards and gardens outside of Paris gave him the information — and inspiration — to start growing his own produce. At the start, Kinch attempted to do all the growing on his own. He quickly realized that it just wasn’t feasible to meet the challenges. Enter Sandberg, a grower whom Kinch convinced to turn all of her land into a farm that grows product exclusively for Manresa. 

Of the benefits, Kinch points most of all to his ability to get produce almost instantly. “There’s such a difference between getting something just minutes after it’s left the farm,” he says, “as opposed to the 12 or so hours that go into getting something to a farmers market.” Since Sandberg doesn’t have any other clients, Kinch can also specify exactly what he wants grown, the maturity levels for different products, and the harvest sizes. The farm started out with eight or so crops. Now, it produces over 300 cultivars

The connection to Love Apple, which is a ten-minute drive from the restaurant, has allowed Kinch to train stagiaires and cooks in farming practices and to reenforce in them the importance of connecting with the people that grow your food. The duo admits that the partnership can also bring publicity to both the farm and the restaurant, and that, as Kinch points out, “guests can complete their experience at the restaurant by taking a walk through the grounds.” 

The partnership has lasted over five years, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Biodynamic farming practices at Love Apple make it so that the crops are always in danger of being attacked by pests and gophers, and there can be serious financial strains.

But Kinch and Sandberg feel that their handshake deal (still no signed contract between the parties) has transformed both Manresa and Love Apple. Watch above for their story, as well as advice on how to go about building a relationship between a restaurant and a farm, even if you don’t have the land or know the right people (yet).