Last month, the Tampa Bay Times published an article titled Farm to Fable, which called out Florida-area restaurants, seafood markets, and farmers markets for using “fresh,” “local,” and “sustainable” language in their marketing material but not at all in practice. The article took off and follow-ups stories were published in Miami Herald, Edible South Florida, and NPR. Understandably and justifiably, readers were outraged that many local establishments they’ve grown to trust implicitly were, in fact, actively deceiving them just to make a quick buck and build their “farm to table” brand.
However, while in Key West filming a recent episode, we came across Three Hands Fish, a pretty awesome business that appears to be the antithesis of what’s called out in the Farm to Fable story. Their mission is to directly connect local Florida Keys commercial fishermen with community members and restaurants. They do so through an ultra-simplified supply chain model: their dockside market receives just-caught seafood each day from the fishermen, where it’s processed fresh and immediately sold to consumers – either individuals or restaurants. Then, throughout the day, they blast out real-time text messages and emails notifying their hundred of subscribers of what was just caught and delivered to the market and include pictures of the fishermen, the just-caught fish, and even seafood recipes.
While in Key West, we had the opportunity to speak with the Three Hands Fish co-founders – Paul Menta, the executive chef and part owner of Key West’s The Stoned Crab restaurant, and Tony Osborn, a commercial fisherman, himself – who noted a secondary objective of Three Hands Fish: to build community around the local commercial fishing industry which, unfortunately, has taken a huge hit since the US began importing much of their seafood from foreign fish farms. Branded on much of their apparel is the line “Commercial Fishermen Are Our Most Endangered Species,” which emphasizes their fear that if coastal communities don’t get behind their commercial fishermen, their jobs will quickly be outsourced to overseas fish farms.