At Proper in Tucson, the term “farm to table” is far more than just a passing fad, and the downtown Tucson eatery is proving as much through a new partnership with the locally based Farm Education Resource Network (FERN). The budding idea from Walking J Farm and Sleeping Frog Farms was developed by Tina Bartsch and Debbie Weingarten who are planting the seeds for development opportunities for the future farmers of Arizona.
Proper Tucson which is part of SLO Restaurant Concepts will be donating 1% of cash sales for 2014 to fund the apprenticeship program. SLO Restaurant Concepts, which stands for “Sustainable. Local. Organic,” also implements similar local-friendly initiatives with their sister concepts, Brix and Criollo, located in Flagstaff, Arizona. FERN, a growing (pun intended) network of farmers and educators who encourage the advancement of sustainable agriculture, local food systems and healthy food choices has partnered with farm-friendly Proper in an effort to enhance education opportunities and secure scholarships for all Arizonans with a sincere desire to farm and grow their own food.
Since their opening in May, Proper has been known for its reliance on ingredients sourced from local farms and ranches and consistently supports Tucson’s blossoming farming community. As part of their training, Proper’s servers and kitchen staff visit the local farmers, growers and purveyors they frequent to establish relationships and improve staff knowledge of the production of produce, grains and proteins served on Proper’s plates.
“Gaining knowledge about local farming practices is part of the ‘Proper’ way of life. Striving to source sustainable quality local ingredients which are always the freshest made the partnership with FERN natural. Proper shares the same desire to help furnish a new generation of food producers in the Tucson area, and encourage passion about local food”, said Paul Moir, owner of SLO Restaurant Concepts. Currently, FERN is offering apprenticeship programs to aspiring farmers of all ages with an interest in farm practices and furthering the farm-to-table experience, all in effort to encourage more farmers in the desert southwest. In addition to scholarship-based programs, there are workshops and other tuition based programs that individuals can utilize.
“More and more farmers are coming out of the woodwork, even on a small scale, where small backyard gardeners are getting the capital to be successful and improving the home-growing dining experience. Through this partnership, we will raise awareness for small-scale farms by increasing the number of sustainable farmers in the southwest. In turn, we grow food to support our community securing a local food system, and as a result keep dollars in Arizona”, said Tina Bartsch, FERN’s board president and the owner of Amado-based Walking J Farm. “We’re fans of Proper and see this new partnership as an opportunity to connect with even more community members who are passionate about the “locavore” movement and improving the home-grown dining experience in Arizona.”
In efforts to grow support, Proper and Fern will be holding a kick-off “Cash Mob” (cash-only) event on Thursday, January 23rd. Guests will be treated to a Proper meet-and-greet cocktail reception where they can meet the participating farmers. Guests are also encouraged to have dinner at their leisure and, of course, use cash.