Have a field day in Alibaug this weekend

Updated: Dec 08, 2016, 09:20 IST | Shraddha Uchil

This weekend, head to a farm outside the city to learn more about the farm-to-table movement in a fun, creative manner


Spend the first half of the day helping out on the farm

ONCE an alien concept, today, the term farm-to-fork is brandished by nearly every restaurant worth its salt, and for good reason. To learn what goes into the food placed before you, spend a day at the Alibaug farm where SoBo restaurant The Table grows its own produce. This includes a bit of gardening, picking your own ingredients, and helping the chefs whip you up a delicious lunch.

"This is the third year we’re holding the farm workshop. The first one, which took place sometime in March 2014, was meant to be a one-off activity, but people enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a yearly event," says Gauri Devidayal, co-owner of the restaurant.

Welcome aboard
The farm is located close to the Alibaug jetty, on a one-acre plot that belongs to her family. Much of the produce — microgreens, spinach, tomatoes, beetroot, kohlrabi and more — finds its way into dishes on The Table’s menu. "We also have fruits such as green papaya, mango and banana growing here in the summer," says Devidayal. The farm also acts as a sort of lab, and she shares that they’re now experimenting with growing edible flowers on the plot.

The workshop is limited to 10 people in order to make it a more intimate activity. Devidayal says, "We’ll be heading out to the farm on a speedboat. Once there, you’ll be given an introduction to the farm and the concept behind it. This will be followed by a tour of the space."

After this, it’s time for you to get down and dirty. Join in and help the gardeners with the replanting and harvesting of produce. The veggies you pick out will go into your meal, which will be prepared fresh. "Post lunch, we have a photographic printing activity planned. But if you’d like to skip that and snooze instead, you can always do that," says Devidayal.

 
Dig into the fruits of your labour at lunch 

Food talk
Devidayal reveals that the farm was never meant to act as a produce supplier to the restaurant. "We own a weekend home on the property, and started growing a few vegetables there several years ago for personal consumption. One year, we had an excess harvest of spinach, which I brought to the restaurant to use. Soon, the staff was asking how we could continue doing it," she shares. This is when urban farming specialist Adrienne Thadani came on board and revamped the farm to suit The Table’s needs, ensuring that every element was chemical-free and the soil quality at its optimum level.

Devidayal also admits that running a farm is quite challenging. "It was difficult to get our gardeners to understand why we wanted things done a certain way. Now, of course, they appreciate the long-term benefits," she says. The investment involved is quite large, she reveals, with no cost benefit. "You end up putting a lot into the farm in the form of quality seeds, good soil, and hard-working labour. This doesn’t translate into any profit, which is probably why you don’t see many other restaurants running their own farms," she adds.

She worries that the farm-to-table concept, although big in the US, might be turning into a gimmick here in India. She says, "I hope it isn’t just a passing fad. We’ve realised that there is a misuse of the term itself. It’s important to know where your food comes from, and it’s great that diners are becoming more aware of what they are feeding their bodies. With these workshops, we’re doing our bit to educate people."

ON December 10, 9 am to 5 pm 
AT: The Table Farm, Alibaug. 
log on to: insider.in 
COST: Rs 4,500

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