Local nonprofit, GreenPlate, talks to restaurants and farmers who are committed to going green in these special Q&As.
Teri Rogers is the owner of Feast and Farmstead 303 in Decatur. Farmstead is located at 303 E Howard Street in the old train depot and Feast is right across the street. Teri opened Feast in 2005 and Farmstead last year.
Why did you decide to open Farmstead 303? Well, I wasn’t really looking to open a second restaurant but it seemed like such a great opportunity. All of the renovations of the depot had already been done and since it was right across the street from Feast, it seemed to make sense.
What is your vision for the Farmstead? I felt there was a need for a more value-oriented farm to table restaurant in Decatur. I wanted to offer to the community food that is affordable and fresh and comforting.
What’s different between Feast and Farmstead? Feast is American continental with a little Mediterranean twist. Farmstead is more comfort food – meat loaf, mashed potatoes. The decor is more rustic elegance. Feast is more romantic bohemian/shabby chic.
What have you done to reduce Farmstead and Feast’s environmental footprint? We offer bio-based take out, recycling our glass and have our grease turned into bio-diesel. In general, we recycle as much as possible. In regard to our food, we build our menus around what is in season and we purchase as much as we can from local sources. Our focus is more on local than organic. We also started our own garden. I’ve worked with my staff not to automatically put a straw in every drink and to ask people if they want one.
What have you learned? It’s really important to have the right team of people who care about the environmental impact and look for ways to make improvements.
What’s your dirty plastic secret? Well, we provide food for our employees and their take out is still Styrofoam. We encourage employees to bring their own containers. The health code requires that when employees take a drink at work, that they must be from cups with lids and straws! We encourage them to bring their own cups from home as well.
Oak Grove is a fifth generation farm owned by Josh Davis located in the heart of West Georgia. It has been a working farm for over 100 years. Oak Grove offers sustainable grass fed beef, farm fresh eggs and certified Naturally Grown produce.
What kind of farm was it originally?
My family has lived on the land for several generations and has raised cattle. A hundred years ago this operated as a self-sufficient community of farmers with its own blacksmith shop, general store and more. They grew everything from cotton to tomatoes to tobacco to a seed corn variety created by my grandfather.
Why and how did you decide to switch to organic farming?
You can’t use the term ‘organic’ anymore…we are ‘Certified Naturally Grown’. So you can say, ‘switched to pesticide-free or natural farming.’
My family has deep roots here and will have deep roots in this place for many, many years to come so making a living off the land means using sustainable, natural methods that will leave this land rich and fertile long after I am gone, exploiting the land and then leaving it was never an option. Plus, I want to grow what I want to eat; it’s really as simple as that.
How long have you been farming?
I have worked on a few farms including Rise N Shine Farm in Rome, GA and Harmony Fields Farm in Louisville, KY but this is my first year farming on my own.
Why did you decide to go into farming?
Several reasons I guess. I love the lifestyle, waking up early and working until dark playing in the dirt all day, there is not much better than that, and it’s a great feeling to make people happy giving them something that I grew from scratch. Also, it’s a great means of pursuing my other interests including philosophy and instrument building; we have a porch that is made for picking a banjo on and watching the sunset. And because this is my favorite place to be in the whole world and this is a way that I can stay here the rest of my life.
Tell us about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Why are you offering that service?
CSAs are sort of a partnership with the farm. It allows a CSA member to be a participant in the farm and to be intimately connected to the source of their food and it allows me to have a connection with the people who are passionate about what I grow. Members pay in advance to help the farmer offset the cost of getting crops in the field. Then the subscriber gets to share in the weekly harvest. We have a number of locations where the weekly produce can be picked up. Ours is sort of a special arrangement in that you can be a part of the CSA for one month at a time or for the whole growing season. Georgia Organics and another organization, Local Harvest provides a lot of great information about farming, CSAs and where to locate local farmers.
George Frangos is one of the owners of Farm Burger, located at 410B W. Ponce de Leon in Decatur. With rave reviews and lines often out the door, we asked Frangos about how Farm Burger is working to be more sustainable.
Why did you decide to open in Decatur?
For the most part, we have found that people in Decatur value the kind of things we are doing with the restaurant. Their values match our values.
Why is Farm Burger the burger place to go?
Because we really care about the animals that we raise. They are grass fed, given no hormones or antibiotics and beyond that – there is just good treatment.
Where does the meat come from?
Well, Jason Mann has helped to start Moonshine Meats, a cooperative partnership of farmers and ranchers, who are engaged in providing ethically raised meat sold under one label. Some of the other producers are White Oak Pastures, Moore Family Farms and Gum Creek Farms to name a few. Jason also runs Moonshine Farms.
There are concerns about global climate change and the production of meat contributing to greenhouse gases – how do address that?
It’s true that meat production does contribute, but our meat is locally produced so there aren’t the impacts from transportation. Because our meat is grass fed, there is less carbon related to their food production and they produce less methane.
What are some of the other steps you’ve taken to reduce your environmental impact?
We use compostable, bio straws and cups and we want to switch to wood so that things are reusable. We really see this as an opportunity to guide and educate our customers about better options. Another thing we do is compost our left over foods. We work with a local guy, Scott, who picks up our food waste and composts it and partners with the City of Decatur to take their yard waste to mix in. We also recycle.
What has the response been?
It’s been fantastic. We were really surprised at how much people have appreciated what we offer. One customer said he liked the self-service because it’s a way to lower waste.
What is the best thing on the menu?
The good thing is that the best thing on the menu changes all the time. Right now, I think it’s the Number 4 burger with feta and pesto.
Wisteria at 471 N. Highland Ave. in Inman Park is also working hard to reduce its environmental footprint. Owner and chef Jason Hill tells us how.
Why did you open Wisteria?
I wanted to open a neighborhood restaurant with staying power. The concept for Wisteria is gourmet southern style food. Everyone thought I was crazy.
GP: What’s your favorite dish?
Fried chicken, collard greens and corn pudding. I thought it would be the first item off the menu because I thought people wouldn’t respect higher-end southern style food. But, it’s still on the menu and it’s the one item that has been featured the most in write-ups.
Why have you started implementing sustainable practices into your restaurant?
If the sustainable practices are easy to implement and cost effective, why wouldn’t you make the changes? It’s the right thing to do.
What changes have you made so far?
We have installed low-flow water devices to cut down on water and heating consumption. We hope to reduce our water use by about 40,000 gallons per year. We have also switched our to-go containers to bio-based products from EcoOrchards that are fully biodegradable, and we are planning to work with Southern Grease to have our spent grease converted locally to bio-diesel.
What’s your dirty little plastic secret?
We are still using plastic bags for to-go items. But we are looking for price competitive alternatives.
Green Bean Coffee Cart
What was “put together on a whim” is now a successful business created, owned, and run by students at Emory University. The Green Bean Coffee Cart is a not-for-profit organization run by 19 students.
The cart sells five varying types of coffee, several flavors of tea, and an assortment of pastries underneath the Cannon Chapel Archway. What makes it unique is that everything that it sells is organic, and the coffee is fair trade and shade-grown.
The idea for the organic and fair trade cart was developed by two former students – Sally Mengel and Addie Davis – for the Sustainability Fair in 2008. The sustainability initiative supported the cart’s emergence into the Emory community through a large grant. All of the containers, including the cups and tops, are either compostable or recyclable.
The implications of fair trade are significant. Certified fair trade products are part of a market-based approach and movement to help farmers and their workers in the developing world ensure that they get fair prices for their products, to help promote sustainability and environmental stewardship, and to obtain better trading circumstances.
Additionally, shade-grown coffee has significant implications. In order to produce higher yields, coffee beans are often grown under the sun, which has led to a considerable amount of deforestation and loss of biodiversity in these areas.
The Green Bean sells coffee purchased from Cafe Campesino, a fair trade and organic coffee roaster in Americus. They currently work with 18 farmers in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and many others.
Manager Brian Goodman said that adding organic fair trade oatmeal, dried fruit, and Sparkman’s drinkable yogurt to the menu are in the plans. He also hopes to host their own events and make it an active club, not just a business.