Seven months into the pandemic, many restaurants have had to close their doors. However, according to an article published by The New York Times, others have seen the opportunity to focus on agriculture by creating their own gardens and growing in the farm-to-table concept. This is the case of Puerto Rican agriculture Crystal Díaz, owner and creator of El Pretexto.
In the community of Cercadillo in Cayey, Puerto Rico is El Pretexto, a magical place with a beautiful view of the mountains to the south coast of the island. There, an integrated system of ecological agriculture is combined with a B & B style inn, where diversity of gastronomic dishes are created using garden products and those from nearby farms. It is here that Díaz grows a variety of fruits, vegetables and other crops.
In the midst of the pandemic, with less movement of guests or diners, Díaz has focused on cultivation and the importance of food sovereignty in Puerto Rico.
Díaz’s work was featured in the major New York publication, as part of The Kitchen Farming Project, an initiative that was born in the midst of the pandemic, when renowned chef Dan Barber, owner of the acclaimed Blue Hill restaurant in Stone Barns, realized that if his staff couldn’t keep busy preparing dishes for their diners because of the pandemic, they could at least spend their days learning how to grow food. Barber launched the initiative by assigning three of his cooks to grow food in a 12-by-15-foot plot of land. He then sent messages to the top 50 chefs around the world, asking if their line cooks would participate as well. The response was quick and positive; everyone wanted their chefs active, and suddenly the project encompassed hundreds of participants in various parts of the world.
According to Barber, his project is largely symbolic. “It won’t solve the crisis facing all restaurants, unemployed cooks and small farmers. But it has the potential to deepen and solidify the relationship between chefs and farmers, and to provide chefs with practical knowledge about the importance of diversified crops.
Without a doubt, the participating chefs of The Kitchen Farming Project, including Crystal Díaz, could be the ambassadors of a new phase in the agro “farm-to-table” movement brought about by the pandemic.