Supporting the Local Food Economy By Investing In Farmers
With a commitment to supporting local farmers and providing customers with sustainably-grown food, Atlanta’s Wrecking Bar Brewpub has purchased more than $1 million in local food since 2015, and has even started growing its own food.
Wrecking Bar is one of Metro Atlanta’s unique food business models because it is a vertically integrated firm comprised of a restaurant, on-premises brewhouse and a farm - giving it considerable influence over its food sourcing.
Chef Terry Koval says Wrecking Bar’s businesses allows its owners to cultivate community connections as they do business. Not only is this important socially, but these connections also mean greater loyalty to the business.
“Our big thing here is a lot of our food comes off pick-up trucks, not semi-trucks. It’s about that relationship” with farmers, says Koval.
“Sometimes that relationship can be just as important as being local.”
Wrecking Bar spent more than $224,000 sourcing local food in 2015 and nearly doubled that investment the following year by spending more than $450,000.
Managing Partner Stevenson Rosslow says it is part of Wrecking Bar’s mission to support these local farmers as well as its own farmers, as it thoughtfully crafts a menu featuring local and seasonal ingredients sourced from their network of suppliers.
Wrecking Bar sources produce, meat and dairy from more than 25 food suppliers who are mostly located primarily within 100 miles of the restaurant.
Taking new steps to improve its food quality and grow produce it had difficulty sourcing locally, the Brewpub purchased its own farm in 2015 called Wrecking Barn Farm.
The 63-acre farm in Loganville, Georgia, is 33 miles from the restaurant, cultivates four acres of organic produce and concluded its first full production season at the close of 2016.
Wrecking Barn Farm grows a variety of organic produce including onions, garlic, strawberries, arugula, sweet potatoes, beans, and lettuces, and is home to 375 chickens.
The farm is managed by a salaried farm manager, along with two other full-time staff member, who directs two to four part-time workers depending on the season.
Wrecking Barn sells its produce and eggs to six other Metro Atlanta restaurants, and also through its community supported agriculture (CSA) program and at a local farmers market.
In its first season, Wrecking Barn Farm sold more than 22,000 pounds of produce, valued at nearly $100,000. From those sales, it supplied the Brewpub with $37,000 of food.
“The fact that we can bring in produce three times a week from our own farm and we get produce from other farms as well means the food is going to be fresher, more life-giving and taste better,” says Rosslow.
The Brewpub strives to communicate to customers that dedication to sourcing locally and supporting farmers, and its menu frequently changes based on what is in season and what its local food suppliers have available.
Wrecking Bar also believes that core to its resiliency is having high, consistent standards, and focusing on maintaining strong relationships with employees and partners.
Whether seeking new purchasing opportunities with farmers or looking for ways to advance employees within the company’s ranks, Wrecking Bar views its work as creating a sustainable network for suppliers, employees and patrons.
“A restaurant is a community-based hub,” says Koval. “Restaurants were built for communities to come together and eat. That’s what we strive for. We strive to be a part of our community, put our dollars back into our community and to support our community.”
Restaurants like Wrecking Bar Brewpub fuel Metro Atlanta's local food system by purchasing food from farmers, providing venues for farmers to exchange ideas and creating unique experiences for patrons to enjoy the food that fills our plates.