A few years ago we took – what was considered – an abnormal route down the garden path.
We requested our restaurant clients to sign supply contracts with us.
Traditionally, client farm relationships in Malaysia as well as at home in Australia, are done the old-fashioned way- with a handshake, bit of hope and a bucket load of goodwill.
The reasons for the contracts were numerous.
Most of the produce we grow cannot be sold on a local market. To local folk, it all looks a bit weird- not to mention taste. When was the last time you saw kohlrabi on your local China diner menu? Hence, we only grow what we know we can sell.
Then of course there’s the risk.
We operate like private farmers- or, as I often think, a restaurant’s own backyard farm- albeit a few hour’s drive away. When an order comes in, we put the seed in the ground.
From the day we started, we emphasised to restaurants they must commit to a crop. Sure, change your mind and your menu, just give us time to harvest what has been planted. Luckily for us, 99.9% of chefs were always gracious enough to adhere to this commitment.
Then one day, one chef did not. He wanted to cancel the restaurant’s order, and overnight.
We only had a hand shake agreement, the chef said.
Unable to sell it elsewhere, the produce very nearly became expensive and quite heartbreaking compost. Luckily the owners got involved and agreed to finish the crop that had been planted.
We all love roulette, but hand-shake agreements are just too risky.
Because there’s only one thing farmers hate more than pesky caterpillars and uncertain markets, and that’s having to compost great produce.
So, to make sure the farmer gets paid for what he or she is requested to plant, and to make sure that the restaurant gets what they want, we wrote a contract. A piece of paper that outlines how we should all work together: fairly, equitably and most of all- in a way nobody gets screwed.
Because sustainability is not only about how we treat the soil, but also how we treat each other.