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Seriously Organic About Connecting Chefs and Farmers

Trina Sargalski

Seriously Organic is a new foraging company that specializes in hard-to-find specialty produce. Partners Juan Rochaix and Elke Zabinski distribute to

Gigi

,

the River Oyster Bar

, and

Red Light

, among other local restaurants. They've been quietly preparing, but they plan to go full speed ahead when the Florida harvest season begins in November.

The mission is to try to get as much local produce to local restaurants, but Rochaix says they will also be practical. They will sell the best they can get, including tomatoes, organic shiitake mushrooms, organic eggs, and 100 percent grass-fed beef (from North Florida).

Trina Sargalski

Rochaix has seen great produce in North Florida too. "The

farmer in North Florida doesn't drive down here. The farmers would love

to do it, but there are no logistics -- the distribution channels aren't

set up that way." Rochaix hopes to take advantage of existing

trucking routes out of South Florida when the harvest begins: "The

trucks leave full from South Florida and return empty. Those trucks

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have to return anyway, so I plan on using those channels to bring more

produce from North Florida."

 

Seriously Organic wants to strengthen links between chefs and local

farmers. As a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Rochaix knows

intimately how restaurants work and what might interest chefs. Lately, he's been trying to nudge local farmers to grow squash blossoms. "Chefs love them. It's almost like

they're addicted to squash blossoms. They really want them, and you

can't bring them on a truck from California because they won't make it."

Eventually, Seriously Organic will offer produce to consumers through a co-op.

Rochaix is excited about this upcoming harvest. He's also

optimistic about the economy, and microgreens are an indicator. "We're running out of microgreens each week," he says. "These are a high-end

item. When the Biltmore is buying a lot of microgreens, it means

they're not so worried about filling their rooms anymore."

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