Author Michael Pollan thinks you should be able to shake the hand that feeds you. And by that he means the farmer, not the restaurant owner.
Of course, if you are dining at Grazin’, a restaurant in Hudson, New York, those two are one and the same. Grazin’ co-owners Dan and Susan Gibson also run Grazin’ Angus Acres, a farm in Ghent a few miles down the road from the eatery.
Dan Gibson wasn’t always a farmer—he spent nearly a decade as senior vice president of global affairs at an international corporation in New York City. But the events of 9/11 caused the Gibsons to reassess their lives, and shortly thereafter, they purchased the farm. At first, Dan continued his day job, but in 2007, he and Susan moved to Ghent to farm full time, eventually adding pasture-raised pigs, chickens, and a herd of Jersey dairy cows to the original Black Angus herd.
Meanwhile, the Gibsons began to get seriously interested in sustainable farming and the benefits of raising animals solely on pasture. They read books like Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. They learned about the negative impacts to animal welfare, human health, and the environment from stuffing cattle with corn—which happens in industrial settings (and even many so-called organic farms).
They must be doing something right. Products from their farm were featured in the 2010 wedding of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky. In October 2011, the Gibsons decided to take food service to the next level, opening Grazin’ with the help of their daughter and son-in-law. Housed in a 1940s-era stainless steel diner, Grazin’ is the first restaurant in the United States to use meat, eggs and dairy products sourced exclusively from AWA-certified farms.
The primary supplier is the Gibsons’ own farm. (To secure a milk supply, they purchased a nearby dairy farm.) But Grazin’s “farm-to-table direct” menu also gets buttermilk and a variety of cheeses from AWA-certified dairies, including Hawthorne Valley Farm of Ghent, Consider Bardwell Farm of West Pawlet, Vermont, and Prodigal Farm of Rougemont, North Carolina (see farm profile, page 6). In addition, the restaurant uses only locally produced, organic produce, bread, and other ingredients in its offerings. (Even the sodas are made on the premises with local ingredients.)
At Grazin’, fresh, sustainably-produced food—and a handshake from the farmer—are always on hand.