Fresh produce laying on a wooden table - dark theme

Farm-to-table: Getting to the bottom of local sourcing

Story By Bailey Gilliam

Heritage Farm in Sea Pines
For more than three decades, Heritage Farm in Sea Pines has cultivated dedicated plots that yield a diverse array of seasonal vegetables. Its crops significantly benefit many local charitable organizations, local residents and restaurants in Sea Pines. ©The Sea Pines Resort

The term “farm-to-table” symbolizes a movement toward direct, unmediated access to food from the farm to your plate, highlighting a commitment to freshness, local sourcing and sustainability. This concept takes various forms, from dining experiences right at the farm to partnerships between restaurants and local farms, facilitating a closer connection to food sources. By bypassing traditional distribution channels, farmers enjoy greater profits and a direct line to how their produce is utilized, enhancing both the quality of food and the dining experience. Eating farm-to-table supports not only nutritional benefits and environmental sustainability but also strengthens local economies. The Lowcountry, rich in local farms and supportive initiatives, is a prime example of this ethos in action, ensuring that the community benefits from truly local, fresh and sustainable dining options.

A man and a woman in a produce garden working
©The Sea Pines Resort

Harvest to plate 

Numerous local restaurants and clubs take pride in owning and operating their farms, setting the standard for genuine farm-to-table dining. Establishments such as Cahill’s Market in Bluffton, Delisheeyo and Jane Bistro on Hilton Head, along with restaurants at Palmetto Bluff and The Sea Pines Resort, offer meals crafted from produce harvested from their own lands. At Palmetto Bluff the farm is a primary source of produce. 

“We are really lucky to have our own farm at Palmetto Bluff,” said chef Rhy Waddington, director of culinary at Palmetto Bluff Club. “Right now the chefs are eagerly awaiting our spring crops, which will include English peas, snap peas, carrots and squash blossoms that arrive in early to mid-May and are a favorite amongst our chefs. We just harvested our sweet onions that you can find on most menus on the property. Summertime for me is all about our tomatoes, melons and peppers. We utilize any excess produce at our farmers market that has been such a great addition to Palmetto Bluff and the greater Bluffton community.”

Similarly The Sea Pines Resort’s culinary offerings are enriched by its own Heritage Farm. Managed by Sea Pines locals, the farm contributes a variety of fresh produce, including leafy greens, peppers, potatoes and herbs, year-round to its restaurants. 

Two men holding watermelons at a farm
©Palmetto Bluff Club
Man working on a farm
©Palmetto Bluff Club
Farm Fields
©Adams Farm

Fresh on the menu 

For enthusiasts of local cuisine and those passionate about supporting South Carolina’s agriculture, is an essential destination. The Certified SC program represents a collaboration between the state’s farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and the S.C. Department of Agriculture. It aims to make identifying locally grown and raised goods straightforward for consumers through the Certified SC label, signaling produce sourced directly from South Carolina’s rich farmlands. With nearly 25,000 farms contributing to the initiative, the assurance of freshness and local origin is guaranteed.

One of the standout features of the program is “Fresh on the Menu,” which showcases restaurants committed to sourcing at least 25 percent of their ingredients locally. This initiative not only enhances the dining experience with fresh, flavorful dishes but also bolsters local agriculture. Participating local restaurants range from Alexander’s Restaurant to Wren Bistro & Bar.

SERG Restaurant Group sets a high standard for farm-to-table practices, sourcing a diverse array of produce from regional farms. According to culinary director Chris Carge, its relationship with local growers like Adam’s Farm and Congaree Mill enriches menus with fresh vegetables, grains and even decorative flowers. Bradford Farms provides collard greens, watermelon, okra, pumpkins, squash, cabbage and sweet potatoes. 

“Nat (Bradford) has been bringing back heirloom and lost produce that were indigenous to South Carolina,” said Brad Blake, culinary operations director and SERG partner. “They are primarily known for the Bradford watermelons, but Nat’s work and efforts have brought back some phenomenal produce that you cannot always get anywhere else.” 

Tuten Farms provides SERG with the majority of its produce through the summer. “Squash, berries, potatoes, cauliflower – just about everything,” Blake said. “Tuten Farms always has the best and freshest available through the proper seasons; plus, we utilize their homemade jellies and jams.”

Frankie Bones plate of farm fresh food
©Bradford Farm

Sowing seeds of sustainability 

Even beyond the Fresh on the Menu program, numerous restaurants in the area maintain strong partnerships with local farmers, showcasing the region’s commitment to local sourcing. Many dining establishments prioritize locally grown produce to ensure freshness and support the community. For instance, Chef Frank’s Bistro sources its exquisite lion’s mane and chestnut mushrooms directly from Lowcountry Mushrooms, while Local Pie incorporates ingredients farmed along the Ogeechee River in Richmond Hill. 

The Bank, Pizza Co. and Burnt Church Distillery all source from River Root Farms for their microgreens. Bill Alberts, co-owner of The Bank and Pizza Co., said, “In the 30 years I’ve been in the restaurant business, River Root Farms has the best produce I’ve seen. They are reliable and always have stock that is fresh, diverse and of great quality.”

Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana prides itself on sourcing a significant portion of its fresh produce through FreshPoint, a distributor known for its commitment to local farms. This partnership allows the restaurant to feature ingredients from esteemed local agricultural partners such as the Gullah Farmers’ Cooperative, Marsh Hen Hill, Bland Farms and LandTec USA.

Lowcountry Fresh Market and Cafe in Bluffton partners with many farmers across the Lowcountry to offer a wide selection of locally grown produce. 

Root produce just pulled out of the ground
©Gullah Farmers Coop

Grain to glass 

While farm-to-table typically brings to mind fresh produce and dining, it also extends into the realm of spirits. Hilton Head Distillery exemplifies this connection through its collaboration with Adam’s Farm for sugar cane, a key ingredient in its fresh cane juice, Agricole-style rum.

“(Adam’s Farm) grows a beautiful varietal of purple ribbon sugar cane,” said Whitney D. Meriwether, master distiller and general manager of Hilton Head Distillery. “We also work with Weather’s Farm in St. George, which grows grain that we use in our whiskey production. He has maybe the only malting facility in South Carolina, and purchasing from him allows us to make whiskey with 100 percent S.C.-grown grain. And, of course, I can’t leave out Marsh Hen Mill. The story of them reviving the all-but-extinct Jimmy Red Corn is amazing. They grow and mill unique and flavorful grains that will always have a place in our S.C. whiskey.”

purple ribbon sugar cane

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