For many business owners in the Athens area, working in the food industry offers an opportunity to make an impact on the community with every dish they serve. Local chefs are increasingly buying food products with a sustainable conscience, and businesses such as Crumbs Bakery, 9 Tables and The Farmacy play key roles in the effort to drive the community toward an environmentally sound future.
Baking in the right direction
A cookie is not always just a cookie. When the ingredients that make up the sweet treat include locally sourced products such as eggs, flour and sugar, a new level of quality is established. That’s the type of product Jeremy Bowman, one of the owners of Crumbs Bakery, takes pride in providing to customers.
At Crumbs Bakery, located at 94 Columbus Road, workers use their craftsmanship to create a wide range of baked goods made with healthy and wholesome ingredients. The business makes 50 different products, including whole-grain breads, dry pasta, granola cereals, cookies and other pastries, which are sold to various vendors throughout Ohio.
“We want to make a healthy product, and customers appreciate that,” Bowman says. “People who are buying our products want to see a healthy world.”
In 1986, the bakery established a new business model that includes building and maintaining partnerships with other local companies. Now, Crumbs Bakery has relationships with other businesses including Restaurant Salaam, The Farmacy and Donkey Coffee. It also connects with the Albany Cafe and Bexley Natural Market Co-op in the Columbus area, as well as Phoenix Earth Co-op in Toledo, Ohio.
“There is a higher level of satisfaction when you are able to work in collaboration,” Bowman says. “I can see the value in being able to support your actual neighbor.”
The owners of Crumbs Bakery also put thought and effort into how they store their wholesome products. The bakery provides its newer items with longer shelf lives, such as flatbreads and whole-grain crackers, to grocery stores. A longer shelf life means the company offers the buyer a longer time to sell the item and reduces the amount of wasted products.
According to Bowman, another part of the bakery’s sustainability efforts focuses on empowerment. As a company open to employee input, the bakery takes workers’ attitudes and feedback into account and employees have an equal effect on the stride for change. By encouraging collaboration between the bakery’s workers and partners, the businesses establish a level of respect for one another.
“It’s a way to set the bar and the standard higher,” Bowman says. “A quality product sets yourself apart from others.”
Commitment to the Community
Along the rooftop of 9 Tables lies an addition that’s making a greener impact on the community. Bill Justice, chef and owner of the fine dining restaurant, installed solar panels last year to generate power in a more sustainable way. 9 Tables was the first business in Eclipse Company Town to invest in solar power.
“We go out of our way to support locals,” Justice says. “As a part of our mission, we do everything we can to be a good community member.”
Since January 2015, 9 Tables has generated almost 2,000 kilowatts of power through the solar panels. Its partnership with Third Sun Solar has resulted in the restaurant saving 33 percent on electric over the past year. The solar panels only generate the necessary amount of electricity to run the 9 Tables, and the unused power is sent back to the electric company.
The restaurant’s commitment to sustainability is also reflected into the food products made and served at 9 Tables. Justice says 100 percent of the funds allocated for ingredients and food products are spent locally. As a community member, Justice believes he has a responsibility to help other local businesses. All of the products Justice uses, including cleaning supplies, produce and other food products, come from local companies. Each season, when new vendors become available, Justice does what he can to develop a partnership so the two businesses can thrive off one another. Some of the local companies Justice partners with include the Athens Farmers Market, Athens OWN and Seaman’s Cardinal Super Market.
“I like to follow the Robin Hood theory and do our part to make sure that money stays here and is going to those who need it,” Justice says. “That’s how we have always done business and is how we will continue to grow.”
Building a network for change
For Kevin Tidd, owner of The Farmacy, the premise of sustainability efforts is to conduct business today without negatively affecting the environment tomorrow. Tidd incorporates sustainability efforts into almost every aspect of his natural foods store. From using paper made from sugar cane to utilizing compostable silverware and reusable bags to selling locally grown products, The Farmacy’s business model invests in the community.
At The Farmacy, customers can purchase all-natural and organic foods that are locally sourced. Tidd created a biodynamic networking system for his supply sources, and he works with local vendors across Ohio to follow the cycle of available, seasonal produce. Tidd says that cycle is important because individuals need to be aware of which foods are most readily available during the different seasons so they can ingest more nutrients and waste less food.
“Anything from salsa to soap, you name it, and we have it out there and it’s locally sourced,” Tidd says. “That’s again, the whole biodynamic thing. It’s a self-supporting network, and that’s fundamentally what it’s all about.”
As a supplier of organic products, Tidd stands by the notion that the benefit of organic products is being able to put life back into food. In contrast to using fertilizers on produce, which causes oil and petroleum to run off into streams, organic farming is about growing produce at the right time and in the right place.
“I personally feel like organic could possibly save the future of farming,” Tidd says, “which is the ultimate, sustainable thing to do, which is to keep that going, keep that soil enriched, keep things going organically.”
In order to continue sustainability efforts, Tidd says it’s all about creating a dialogue within the local food community. If individuals want to do their part for the environment, it’s as simple as using reusable bags. By supporting local businesses, community members invest money back into the area and are helping to make Athens a more sustainable place to shop, eat, and live.
“We are all in this boat together, and we really have to look out for each other,” Tidd says. “Like a catch phrase from back in the ’90s, the key is to think globally, but act locally.”