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Fort Wayne Embraces 'Farm To Fork' Movement

Amber Foster

You’ve likely heard the phrases Farm to Fork or Farm to Table. It’s more than just a trendy way to describe a dining establishment—it is a movement toward a healthier lifestyle. Knowing where your food comes from is key to making better choices. You may think Farm to Fork is a trend just for folks in bigger cities, but it is alive and well in Fort Wayne, which makes sense since we are surrounded by farmland, after all. Lucky for us, over the past few years, several restaurants have embraced this movement and are bringing true Farm-to-Fork experiences to the Summit City.

Aaron Butts, chef and owner of The Golden, which opened in downtown Fort Wayne last summer, has been on the forefront of this movement in our region for many years.  “People have a longing to get back to the dinner table with family and friends to enjoy real food again,” he says.  “I don’t believe the best things in life are easy nor the most accessible. Convenience foods have been so popular because everyone is so busy they don’t take the time to eat right. Before convenience foods emerged, we had a connection to the land and a cultural identity through the foods we prepared." 

The Golden currently sources ingredients from Hawkins Family Farm, Gunthrop Farm, Sevens Sons Farm, Fox Trail Farm, Countryside Produce Farm, Traders Point Creamery, Tulip Tree Creamery, and Capriole Farmstead. They also have three raised beds on the rooftop of the Ash Building where they grow organic tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and all sorts of herbs.

Credit Alice Eshelman
Wagyu beef from Joseph Decuis

Alice Eshelman of Joseph Decuis, which has its own farm, believes our country is experiencing a renaissance. “People are questioning everything from politics to medicine, religion, and especially, food,” she says. “A large segment of our society is concerned about the health value of food: where it comes from, how it is treated, and how it is raised or grown, and the Farm-to-Fork movement is right in the middle of this.”

In addition to their own farm, where they raise Wagyu Beef, Mangalitsa pork, Heritage chickens, and over 150 varieties of vegetables and herbs, Joseph Decuis partners with Hawkins Family Farm, Gunthop Farms, Russell Sheep Farm, and Strauss Veal.

“We partner only with those who share our value system: humanely raised, sustainable, drug free, stress free, and raised with love,” Eshelman says.

While personal health is important, the movement is about much more. It supports the local community/economy and promotes sustainable farming and the act of raising animals humanely.

“If you like to support local business, then it is important to know where your products are coming from,” says Bo Gonzales of Bravas. He got his start with a hot dog cart several years ago, and last year, he opened a restaurant that specializes in burgers made from beef from Wood Farms. “If you care about the environment, it’s good to know the food you are buying has a smaller carbon footprint. Along with knowing where your food comes from, it’s also important to understand the practices of the farm.” That’s why his relationship with Wood Farms is so important.  

Credit Bambi Guthrie
Meat used in Bravas burgers comes from Wood Farms in Fort Wayne

“I work with the Woods for a multitude of reasons,” Gonzales explains. “The first being their beef, of course. The way Dennis runs his farm is extremely admirable. They are certified organic and recognized by OEFFA out of Ohio. The second biggest factor in why I continue to buy Wood Farms Beef is getting to work directly with the family. Dennis and his wife Kristen are some of the most good-hearted people you will ever meet. It’s always an experience hanging out on the farm with the family. I always leave in high spirits—inspired and motivated. I can't say that about a beef factory.”

Matt and Nicky Nolot, owners of Tolon, which opened its doors in 2016, are also committed to sourcing their ingredients locally. “Knowing that food hasn’t set on a truck and trekked 1,800 miles, but rather, was picked that morning ensures the freshest quality possible. Knowing that the animals are cared for in a humane environment and not in a factory farm with no human contact makes for better quality, as well,” says Nicky.  

Tolon’s partners include Gunthorp Farms, Hoffman Organics, Berry Hill Farms, and several farms that offer seasonable produce during the summers. “Before we work with any farm, we like to meet with them, tour their farm and discuss their philosophy,” Nicky explains. “It is important to us that we stay true to our mission of supporting sustainable agriculture in our community.”

Chef Matt Nolot and his wife Nicky are owners of Tolon

Because of that, the farms they work with tend to be smaller, independent farms that may have only a few hundred acres. “One person spends many hours each day tending their fields and animals. This falls is line with our philosophy of attention to detail,” Nicky says.

They also patronize local farmers markets in the summer and have their own garden where they raise tomatoes, green beans, herbs, pickling peppers and numerous varieties of hot peppers.

The owners of Junk Ditch Brewing Company are also committed to sourcing ingredients locally. They currently source pork from Gunthorp Farms, chicken and produce from Hawkins Family Farm, grass fed beef from Fischer Farms, and produce and eggs from Country Gardens, to name a few.  They also have plans to transform an acre of land on their property into a garden this summer.

For more about the Farm to Fork movement in Northeast Indiana, check out next month’s column.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff, management or board of Northeast Indiana Public Radio. If you want to join the conversation, head over to our Facebook page and comment on the post featuring this column.

Amber Foster is a freelance writer, community volunteer, mom, and food aficionado. Find her at www.agingerinthekitchen.com