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Dinner on a farm for $150? Really?


I love Tour de Farm. It brings people who love food (you and me) together with great chefs (John Radle, Michelle Gayer, Mike Phillips) and plops us in the middle of a farm field. Last year I ate pork on a pig farm. Sheep's cheese on sheep farm.

JD Fratzke rocked my world at Star Thrower Farm last year. Corner Table's Scott Pampuch launched this last year. They quickly sold out at a bargain-lovers price: just $85 a person. Five courses, matching wine, all prepared on location.

I wondered: How are these guys getting paid? They weren't.

"If it wasn't for the generosity of all the labor hours on all aspects of it—farms, chefs, restaurants—those events never would have happened," said Scott Pampuch. "It basically worked on the backs of all the chefs, Lenny and JD and Mike and Scott, all those guys that ran our first season," he explained. Last year the farms got paid for providing the food, and a rental company got paid for bringing in chairs and tables, but that was about it.

This year, things are different, and Tour de Farm is charging $150 a person. So $300 a couple, to eat dinner on a farm? I tweeted out @DeRushaEats "$150/head seems steep." (You should be following me @DeRushaEats. I'm hilarious.)

Why the 76% price hike?

"We want to practice what we preach. We're talking about a sustainable message. Food having value. Experiences having value. We need to attach some kind of value to that," Scott told me.

The food cost alone is significant. Scott didn't want to get into exact numbers, but you can guess it's between $40-$60 a person. Last year, wine and beer people donated $10,000 worth of liquor. They're getting paid this year. The farmers are getting a stipend (it takes a lot of work to turn your farm into a restaurant), as are the chefs.

"Nowhere near what I would say they should be getting. But we had to start somewhere," said Pampuch.

At Corner Table, you can get a five-course tasting menu with five glasses of wine for $85. Will people pay $150 to eat on a farm?

"It's a half-day experience. We're putting them in contact with people they haven't met. We're really focusing on an education component," Pampuch explained. "If I'm making a ton of profit on these events, I would like to see somebody come in and find it for me," he said, while he acknowledged, "I'm not going to lie: I'm getting paid this year."

As he should be. I like eating great food at a steal, but I want chefs and restaurants to get paid for their work.

If you can't swing $150 for the dinners (June 27 at Tangletown Gardens Farm, Plato; July 18 at Cedar Summit Farms in New Prague; October 10 in Duluth), Tour de Farm has added family picnics (August 22 at Riverbend Farm in Delano; September 19 at Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River).

"I still think the value of this event is pretty amazing," said Pampuch. We'll see if Minnesotans agree.

You can get tickets now at Corner Table, 4257 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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