Whether it’s a reinvention of the classic grilled cheese or an unpronounceable grain that’s sure to excite any health nut, one thing seems to remain the same: consumers love fresh food and unbeatable prices. Farm-to-table is one movement we stand firmly behind. Sourcing directly from local farms guarantees that the food on our plates is in season, nutritious and supports the local economy.
Established in 2008 and located in the Washington, DC, Founding Farmers, follows this model. Three years prior, the North Dakota Farmers Union approached Dan Simons, concept creator and managing partner of the Farmers Restaurant Group. Their vision was to open a restaurant showcasing farmers’ commitment to quality produce and environmentalism. Simons was infected with their overwhelming passion and motivation.
Now over 40,000 American family farmers across the country own a share of the restaurant and continue to provide the kitchen with seasonal produce, fresh dairy products, meat, and seafood. The name encompasses an acknowledgement of America’s founding fathers, many of whom were the original farmers of the land surrounding D.C.
Founding Farmers’ commitment to sustainability is truly remarkable and sets a high standard for others in the industry. It embodies “practice what you preach.”
A firm believer of the holistic approach, the restaurant diligently ensures that every detail from the back kitchen to the front dining area is designed and operated with the earth in mind. The kitchen, for example, composts all food wastes and scrapes, has an in-house water filtration system, and even prints menus on recycled paper with soy ink.
However, the restaurant’s status as a forerunner in the sustainable restaurant business presents many challenges. As one of the first full-service LEED Gold Certified restaurants in the country, Founding Farmers faced obstacles in the beginning that were unfamiliar, yet required innovative solutions. There were no models to reference nor playbooks to follow. The talented team viewed the hurdles as opportunities to learn and adapt instead of discouraging setbacks. They wanted to create a completely original restaurant.
Nowadays, many people are embracing an active lifestyle featuring a clean and healthy diet at home. Founding Farmers has consciously incorporated this movement into their “true food” menu. The restaurant strives to offer the best possible “meal away from home,” and their menu sacrifices no nutritional benefits from the ingredients used.
Good taste comes from superior ingredients. Customers can be confident that all beef and poultry is 100% natural, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed and grain-finished. Dairy products come from free-range cows. The seafood is wild, line-caught or sustainably farmed, and fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits are delivered daily, except on Sundays, from biodiverse farms that use minimal to zero forms of chemical pesticides.
Customers can expect all their senses to be enriched and excited at Founding Farmers. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels allow natural sun rays to shine into the dining area during the day and candlelights shimmer throughout the evening. The interior is modern, casual and open. Carefully thought-out details, like the wooden furniture and rows of pickled vegetables in large mason jars, pay homage to traditional rustic farm life. Everything is designed with the customer’s comfort and enjoyment in mind. Hooks are placed under the bar for bags, natural soaps are used in the bathroom, even the playlist is thoughtfully curated with upbeat contemporary country and lyrical pop with a little bit of the ’80s in the mix.
But the care does not stop with the customer. At Founding Farmers, the staff is treated with the utmost respect and care. Employees are offered paid vacations, the opportunity to pursue their educational aspirations, and are challenged on a daily basis to improve their professional skills. Working at Founding Farmers is more than a job: it’s a chance to collaborate with friends and create memorable experiences.
In recent years, Founding Farmers has gained increasing recognition. To the farmers, this success is a reassurance that more people understand and appreciate the value of family farming. Simons believes that “the world we leave for our children and their children is the most important responsibility.”
The team continues to strive for every day excellence in terms of quality of food, dining experience, community partnership, and environmental awareness.
There are many bold and exciting ventures in the future for the restaurant. On top of a line of in-house spirits and “Founding Farmers Gin and Rye,” is its first ever cookbook.
At Mood of Living, we have been anxiously awaiting the release of The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink. It includes everything we love– beautiful photography, easy recipes and profiles of farmers who provide us with the scrumptious ingredients we enjoy. The cookbook features a selection of the most popular items on the menu.
We are truly honored to be able to share three delightful dishes with our own Mood of Living readers. To the side you will find recipes for Purple & Black Kale Salad, Butternut Squash-Mascarpone Ravioli and Peach-Blueberry Crisp. Adding these to your personal fall entertaining repertoire will surely make you a chef favorite among family and friends.
Photography by Caitlin Ochs, Greg Powers, Fredde Lieberman, Jen Cubas, Leah Frankl, Renee Comet, Stephanie Breijo, and Farmers Restaurant Group