One of DC’s Best Joins Trash Summit on Plastic Pollution

A small team from across our company took a day away from our offices and award-winning restaurants to join other local policy makers, business leaders, advocates, and community members to participate in an all-day, annual Trash Summit at George Mason University.

Led by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, this year’s focus was seeking “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution.” Co-owner Dan Simons was part of the opening panel, moderated by Michael Berger of Elevation Burger, and discussed the ins and outs of operating a sustainable restaurant company for over 10 years.

Tweets from @aliceferguson throughout the day pointed to the lively and informative conversations, including Dan’s discussion on “the delicate relationship between mission and profit,” which creates opportunities such as “the responsibility and gift of educating customers on going straw-free.”

As DC’s Best New American Restaurant, we work hard to not only serve scratch-made, delicious food and drink, but also to preserve the beauty and health of our great city, which includes helping to educate our neighbors on everything we know (and do) to operate more sustainably.

Our Last Straw, the non-profit we launched over the summer, hosted an information table to share more about our efforts to build a coalition of restaurants and other hospitality-oriented businesses, local government agencies, NGOs, and community members to eliminate plastic drinking straws throughout the DC region.

“Even though small, plastic straws contribute to the plastic problem across the world,” said Dan Simons. “We see straws as an important gateway to eliminating other single-use plastics and an important part of our sustainability efforts, both within the walls of our restaurants and far beyond.”

Erin Chalkley, our Construction & Development Project Manager and LEED Green Associate, who helps us build and manage our waste systems, including running regular waste audits, also led two roundtables on waste reduction in restaurants.

Participants expressed considerable interest in what we’ve learned in more than a decade of running sustainable restaurants, which are LEED certified and have earned 3 Star Green Restaurant Association certifications, as well as additional accolades, such as our most recent Near-Zero Waste Award, one of two recent GRA award wins.

This all-day meeting created much opportunity for continued learning for our team. We are grateful to the Alice Ferguson Foundation for a lively and informative day of education, networking, and outreach. We are looking forward to a productive future working closely with their Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, including participating in this annual Trash Summit.

Chefs Reel in a Day of Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay

Chefs and team members from across our company, Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG), spent Monday fishing on the Chesapeake Bay participating in the 7th Annual Congressional Seafood’s FINvitational. Among our team members, led by Vicki Griffith, FRG’s Vice President for Quality Assurance & Purchasing, was our very own Farmers & Distillers Chef Richard Torres.

Team FRG brought home the 3rd place trophy thanks to Chef Oscar Rivera from our sibling restaurant, Founding Farmers DC, who reeled in the 31-inch award-winning Chesapeake Bay Rockfish.

The purpose of this field trip was to get to know some of our fisherman, our primary supplier and host for the day, Congressional Seafood Co, as well as learn the ins and outs of fresh fish and seafood. We also wanted to get better acquainted with our local waterways. The team met many local vendors and organizations working to educate our communities about the bay and its preservation.

The Family Secret to Our Glazed Cedar Plank Salmon

Glazed Cedar Plank Salmon has become one of the most popular menu items across all of our restaurants. No doubt, the recipe is a winner. But what lies beneath the salmon is critical to the rustic, smoky taste that pairs so well with the sweetness of the apricot glaze.

Our salmon is cooked atop cedar planks we source from Flame Grilling Products, a family-run company in Maine. What was once a business run out of their family farmstead has become a 30,000 square foot production and distribution facility in Waldoboro, ME, with a satellite center in Glennville, GA. They now have the largest selection of grilling and smoking woods and plank varieties in the world. Still, they operate with the same heart and values from their early days.

Flame Grilling Products receives wood daily from family farms and foresters from Maine to Florida. Many rural farmers rely on their business to augment their family income. Neighbors are accustomed to seeing deliveries coming in on old farm trucks and homemade trailers behind a family SUV.

Because of the family’s commitment to quality and the planet, their wood has always been harvested sustainably as they like to say, “long before sustainable harvesting became the buzz word of the industry.” It is not mechanically harvested and arrives clean and fresh, with the bark still intact. This extra care in harvesting is one of the reasons why their products are known for the best smoke and plank flavor on the market.

We know it is one of the secrets behind the deliciousness (and popularity) of our salmon. And we definitely think our salmon is delicious, especially with a glass of our crisp New York Vines White wine. As always, we work hard to make good food from scratch using sustainable sources that support American farmers.

At Farmers Restaurant Group, we know Everything Matters, even that cedar plank beneath your salmon. So the next time you are in one of our restaurants, take a peek.

Straw Switcheroos & Strategies for More Sustainable Sipping

At Farmers Restaurant Group, we are excited to announce we have taken another step to do more good and less harm for the earth and so many of its beautiful creatures.

From now on, we’re implementing an entirely new straw program for our beverages. When you order a drink in one of our restaurants, we will be serving up two earth-friendly options. Some of our drinks will come without straws because, frankly, we realized they don’t need them. And some of our drinks will come with our new paper straws.

We have made the switch to Aardvark paper straws, which are both eco-friendly and biodegradable. Made in the U.S., Aardvark straws are BPA free, FDA approved, and decompose in just 45-60 days. That’s a whole lot of good news for the earth and everyone on it.

“Even though straws are small, they are causing massive pollution problems,” says Co-Owner Dan Simons. “In the U.S. alone, we use over 500 million plastic straws EVERY DAY. That’s a lot of trash, much of which ends up littering our waterways, oceans, and shorelines. If the straw pollution problem is news to you, do a quick online search to find work around the globe encouraging changes to our straw sipping habits. And if you haven’t seen the video of the poor sea turtle with the cocktail straw stuck in his nose, Google that too. It’s heartbreaking. In our restaurants, we are making this switch so we don’t participate in all of the hazards associated with using plastic straws, and to bring more awareness to the global straw use problem.”

Preventing straw pollution has been part of our earth-friendly practices for a long time. Prior to this week’s change, we were using compostable straws. While a much better choice than standard plastic straws, if they get thrown away as trash they act like plastic. They don’t break down like they do in the compost facility. With paper straws, they decompose wherever they end up.

Our new program has one caveat: we’re still looking for a solution for the long straws we serve with our shared drinks. These plastic straws will continue to get recycled until we can find an alternative.

Everyday, across all of our restaurants, we’re committed to reducing our use of plastics. This is why we have always served filtered water, instead of selling plastic water bottles, and why we are now serving paper straws, or no straws at all, when we think they aren’t needed. Of course, we will make our paper straws available for all of our drinks if our guests want or need them.

So, come on down for one of our tasty beverages and join us in our straw switcheroo and strategy. Let’s all work together – one straw at a time — to make the earth a little bit cleaner and safer for everyone on it.

LEED Certifying Our Restaurants

All of our restaurants across Farmers Restaurant Group – Founding FarmersFarmers Fishers Bakers, and Farmers & Distillers – are LEED certified, or we are in the process of pursuing LEED certification. This means that we have been counseled by the U.S. Green Building Council on the greenest and most earth-friendly ways to create and construct our restaurants.

LEED certification – which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a complicated, labor intensive, and costly process that begins prior to construction and is usually not complete for a full year after construction. While it is becoming more common in the hospitality industry, Founding Farmers was the first full service, upscale casual restaurant to pursue LEED certification, and Farmers Restaurant Group is currently the only company in its class to seek certifications for all of its restaurants.

Watch this video featuring Co-Owner Dan Simons to learn more about why we LEED certify all of our restaurants.

The LEED score cards for many of our restaurants can be reviewed online, revealing the detailed steps we have taken to earn each level of certification: LEED Gold for Founding Farmers DC, LEED Silver for Farmers Fishers Bakers (and Moco’s Founding Farmers) and Standard LEED certification for Founding Farmers Tysons. LEED Gold is currently pending for Farmers & Distillers, and we are in the process of pursuing certifications for Founding Farmers King of Prussia and Founding Farmers Reston Station.

Sharing Farm Facts: Videos for the Social Media Savvy 

Farmers Restaurant Group has paired up with The George Washington University Food Institute and the National Farmers Union (NFU) to launch a 12-week series of Farm Facts videos to be featured primarily on social media. This productive partnership was formed to raise awareness about American farming, as well as the life and times of American farmers, for our guests and the public.

Farm Facts are short videos that provide interesting and important information about a variety of farming topics from ranchers and drones to climate change to using wheat to make spirits.

The first of our Farm Facts videos was released today focused on explaining the “Farmer’s Share” of every dollar Americans spend on food. To learn more and watch this week’s video, visit our InstagramFacebook, and Twitter profiles.

It will take you less than a minute to watch and understand more about how much money our country’s farmers actually make.

Stay tuned each week for the next three months for the rest of our Farm Facts seriesWe’re certain the more information we can share about farming, the more we can support our American family farmers and their continued work to provide all of us with delicious, high-quality food.

Please also learn more about our partners, and all of the work they do for American farms and farmers. They will also be posting our weekly Farm Facts videos.

The National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the quality of life for U.S. family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Follow them on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter and learn more about their work at: https://nfu.org

The GW Food Institute is home to faculty and student scholars engaged in research about all things related to food, from sustainable agriculture to the way diet and meals shape human society. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram,or Twitter and learn more about their work at: https://foodinstitute.gwu.edu

Saying “No” to Plastic Water Bottles Since Day One

Across all of our restaurants – Founding FarmersFarmers Fishers Bakers, and Farmers & Distillers – we say “no” to plastic water bottles. And we’ve been saying no since we first opened our doors back in 2008.  

At Farmers Restaurant Groupeverything matters, including how we serve our water. We have made a commitment to provide all of our guests unlimited, free filtered water, sparkling or still. Just last year alone, across all of our restaurants, we filtered about 400,000 gallons of water, the equivalent of more than three million 16-ounce bottles.  

Why do we do this?  

Watch this video with Co-Owner Dan Simons to learn more about why we don’t buy or sell bottled water. And join us in yet another one of our sustainably-minded practices to do more good and less harm… for the environment, and for your wallet.

Do Your Waggle Dance. It’s Honey Bee Day. 

Every year at Farmers & Distillers we celebrate Honey Bee Day, a worldwide holiday started by a group of beekeepers in 2009 to build awareness of the importance of honey bees for the future of the planet and everyone in it.  

Honey bees have been around for millions of years. Not only are they the only insect that produces food for humans – delicious honey – they are also vital pollinators. Honey bees travel to approximately 50-100 flowers during one collection trip, happily pollinating them as they go. This work is necessary to maintain the biodiversity of our food. Without honey bees, we wouldn’t have the variety of food we all know and love. 

At Farmers Restaurant Group, we are always looking for new ways to protect our bees, our food sources, and our planet. This includes supporting research on honey bees at our urban apiary at George Washington University.  And supporting education efforts, such as our partnership with Sweet Virginia, which works to inspire and educate children about honey bees.  

We also love learning about these amazing insects. Did you know that honey bees communicate with each other by dancing? They actually have several different dances. For example, when a worker bee returns to the hive, she (worker bees are all female) dances to tell the other members of the hive she has discovered a food source, and she has another dance to tell where it is. The honey bee dances are called the honey bee waggle.  

This year, to celebrate Honey Bee Day, let’s all do something to honor the magic of the honey bee. Whether that means we buzz around to learn more information about how these amazing insects protect the earth. Or do the honey bee waggle to tell other members of our hives about how the pollination work of bees is essential to our robust food sources. Or support the efforts of other honey bee wagglers, such as groups like Sweet Virginia.  

And, of course, waggle dance yourself on over to one of our restaurants to learn more about what we are doing to support honey bees, and taste some of the delicious fruits of their labor in our food and in our drinks. We have a new honey source we are pretty excited about, Bubba’s Sweet Nectar, and it’s finger-licking, waggle-inspiring good.

With a Name Like Bubba’s Sweet Nectar, They Had Us at Hello

When we first learned about Bubba’s Sweet Nectar and the story behind their honey, we were all individually saying, “show me the honey.” Obviously we are excited about our recent partnership with this central Virginia-based honey company started by two friends who call each other “Bubba.” 

The Bubba crew wowed us with their honey, and we are happy to say we are now using Bubba’s Sweet Nectar in our food and drink. Their clover honey can be found in everything from our Founding Farmers house favorite, Skillet Cornbread, to our Honey Thyme Roasted Spatchcock Chicken to the whipped honey butter we serve with our biscuits to the multigrain bread we bake every day. Clover honey is also used in some of our dressings, sauces, and many of our scratch-made cocktails. For example, clover honey is a crucial ingredient to the tasty Farmers & Distillers Clementine Cooler, which uses Founding Spirits Vodka infused with clementine, Founding Spirits clementine bitters, lime, honey, and maraschino. Even some of our proprietary spirits use honey. We are currently using Bubba’s wildflower honey to sweeten our Founding Spirits Arroyo’s “Never Bitter” Amaro.

Bubba’s Sweet Nectar is 100% pure, raw honey that is not pasteurized, not ultra-filtrated, and doesn’t contain additives or artificial preservatives. They have two varieties: Clover is traditionally the honey most people use and has a light, mild flavor. Sweet clover plants come in a variety of types, are the highest nectar producing plants, and are the most important plants for honey production. Wildflower is a mixed floral honey derived from a wide range of flowers. It is usually a bit richer and tangier than clover honey, depending on the mix of seasonal wildflowers. 

The honey masters at Bubba’s Sweet Nectar are also devoted to the future of honey bees, and our planet, which aligns well with everyone across Farmers Restaurant Group. We are all big fans of honey and the hardworking producers of honey, honey bees. Our urban apiary at George Washington University is one of our most beloved partnerships. We are delighted to expand our hive and bring our guests Bubba’s Sweet Nectar. We hope you will join us in the honey love. 

Everything Matters

At Farmers Restaurant Group, every day we are working to build and run green, sustainable restaurants.

As a farmer-owned company, we care about the future of the planet, and we recognize the importance of preserving the land for future generations. This work has always been a priority in all of our restaurants, Founding FarmersFarmers Fishers Bakers, and our latest Farmers & Distillers, as well as our distillery, Founding Spirits. We know living sustainably is also a priority for many of our guests.

For us, whether it is our filtered drinking water, our composting programs, our LEED certifications, or paying close attention to the source of our food, we are always working to do more good and less harm. And still serve our delicious scratch-made food and drink.

As Co-Owner Dan Simons says in the accompanying video, “everything matters.”