Queue that annoying song from "High School Musical." I spend a lot of time talking about coffee and coffee knowledge on this blog. But beyond being a coffee roaster I am a part of a movement of local food producers in Fort Bend County. And when, in my travels, I meet someone that is doing something really cool, I want to tell you about it.
A few Saturday's ago at the Imperial Farmer's Market I met a couple with two elementary age kids. They bought two iced coffees, asked me a bit about my business, told me about how much they enjoyed the coffee and then the husband said something that surprised me. "What can we do to help you?" I learned that I started a conversation with a local food producer just like me; and that they have a strong focus on working together to increase the quality of food in our area and to build authentic community.
Geoffrey and Renee, along with their two children run a farm in Needville called The Barry Farm. They raise pigs, sheep, and chickens (and also produce honey and citrus) and they are serious about it. Striving to produce the best pasture raised wholesome food they can. They invited me out to their farm to see what they do and I took them up on it.
I drove to Needville from my warehouse in Fulshear. I brought them a few bags of coffee and Geoffrey showed me around the farm while his wife fed the pigs and chickens. They raise Red Wattle pigs, a heritage breed. They also raise a superior breed of sheep (White Dorper Sheep). In everything they were doing, they were focused on using sustainable practices that bring life back to the farm. They move their pig pen around the pasture because the pigs naturally till and fertilize the soil. The sheep grazing do a similar thing for the native grasses.
Geoff and I saw eye to eye on a lot of things about food. First of all, he said local is not enough anymore. Just because your food is local does not make it better. Your focus as a local producer should first and foremost be the quality of your product. That is how we run our business too. I want you to buy from me because I am your neighbor, but more importantly, I want you to buy from me because I make the best coffee you can get anywhere. And you can proudly say that your coffee is roasted in your home town. Besides, if I am your neighbor, and my coffee sucks, doesn't that make it awkward for you when you see me around town?
We also agreed that we have to work together as a community of local producers to raise the quality of our region. Wouldn't it be great if Fort Bend County was known for producing some of the finest food in the world? We have a lot of promising things happening here. I am consistently amazed at the quality of food being offered at our local farmer's markets. I always thought I had a bit of an advantage because I can offer coffee that is far better than what you can get in the grocery store. But I am seeing that many of my fellow producers are doing the same thing. I grilled a ribeye from Texas Kobe Beef a few weeks ago (traded a bag of coffee for it) and it was unbelievable!
So Geoff and Renee offered me an open ended, "let's work together." We don't have any details yet, but it might look something like this: A dinner at my roastery (or maybe at their farm) that features produce from our gardens, meat from the farm, and coffee to pair with every dish. I do know if someone asks me about lamb or pork in the future, I will tell them, "I know a local family that raises the best lamb and pork you will find anywhere. And what's more, they are kind people and they really care about what they are doing."
The thing that has surprised me the most in starting my coffee business is the community aspect. I have met so many great people, both as customers and fellow producers. I have always believed in strong community, but in our increasingly disconnected world, I really wondered what could be done to grow a community. I think dedicated local artisans are a big part of that puzzle, at least for me. I feel at home with my fellow artisans who believe that striving after a great product is worth it, because it is good, and because it serves your neighbor. Here's to the Fort Bend County food movement.