Farm to table movement saves 500-acre tract

Farm to table movement saves 500-acre tract

Nearly 20 years ago, with bulldozers nearly at the ready to clear 500 acres for an 80-home development in Groton, Massachusetts, Steve and Nancy Webber stood up at a town meeting and offered a different plan.

Instead of homes, they proposed a farm-to-table restaurant featuring produce grown and raised on site. Instead of cul-de-sacs and driveways, they argued to preserve the land where Gibbet Hill Farm once raised Black Angus beef cattle.

The Bancroft in Burlington, Mass
The Bancroft in Burlington, Mass. is one of four hospitality businesses emerging from an effort to preserve farmland.

“There was a major developer who proposed building 80-homes on this beautiful land when Steve Webber stood up at town meeting and said, ‘I’ll buy the land!’

The land had long been home to a renowned Black Angus cattle breeding operation, and for years, the Webber family took over the property, they worked with town agencies to place the land into permanent conservation,” says Amy Severino, marketing manager and spokesperson for the Webber Restaurant Group, a four-restaurant business that sprang from the old Groton farm.

In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Severino explains how two barns and a farm were converted into the first of four farm-to-fork restaurants owned and operated by the Webber Restaurant Group.

Boxerbrand: Gibbet Hill Grill, your flagship, was started on the farmland saved by the Webbers.

After Steve and Nancy saved the land, and told their three children—Josh, Jed and Kate—that they could have the two barns and farm to do what they wanted, they decided to create a farm-to-table restaurant. None had a restaurant background. They were in business, writing, and other ventures. But the idea was to grow the produce right there on the farm, including the livestock, and Gibbet Hill Grill became wildly successful.

It was so successful that the Webbers opened a second restaurant, Scarlet Oak Tavern, in Hingham, Mass. The second restaurant is in an old Colonial home that dates back to the 1750s, and has a huge history. It was a restaurant for over 100 years, and before that, a boarding house.

Boxerbrand: How does the Webber family’s passion for sustainable food inspire the chefs?

We have a strong focus on local produce in both Gibbet Hill Grill and Scarlet Oak Tavern. We grow a lot of our produce on the farm at Gibbet Hill, and when we have a bumper crop, we use that product in every conceivable way. We’ll make garnishes, sauces, and freeze them for use throughout the winter. That’s just one example.

At Scarlet Oak, because we’re close to the ocean, we source super-local seafood. Our lobsters are from nearby Scituate and our shellfish is from Duxbury.

Our chefs are passionate about creating great plates, their trade, and minimizing waste. So, for example, even a head of garlic is an opportunity. When they use it, they use the stem, the leaves and every bit of it. The same is true for the livestock, the pigs and lambs we produce. Our chefs use everything, even making their own stocks and sausages.

Boxerbrand: Webber recently opened a fourth concept. Please tell me about it.

In 2014, they opened The Bancroft in Burlington, Mass. It’s a departure from the rustic, farm to table of Gibbet Hill and Scarlet Oak, and is a sleeker, sexier, more modern steakhouse with an eclectic feel. And we also operate Fireside Catering from Burlington, which caters to a handful of exclusive venues, such as the historic Fruitlands Museum, The Crane Estate and the Moraine Farm and The Bradley Estate.

We cater a lot of weddings and events and we welcome the opportunity not just to serve great food, but to really show off the farm to fork quality. The Webber Restaurant Group has had a commitment to sustainability since Steve Webber stepped up to buy the 500 acres in Groton, Mass., and preserve it for generations to come.

And I’m happy to report that we are going strong! — The Webber Restaurant Group utilizes Boxerbrand menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!

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