When Redmond-based Sound Sustainable Farms launched earlier this summer, its mission was clear: Close the loop on sustainability.
The 60-acre farm, which opened in June, is the brainchild of Cedar Grove, a local company that works to divert organic waste away from landfills. One way the nearly 100-year-old organization does this is by partnering with area restaurants, turning their food waste into compost.
So, when Cedar Grove acquired the dormant farmland that would become Sound Sustainable Farms, it only made sense to reach out to the restaurants it already was working with through its food-hauling program to discuss the potential of another opportunity.
“We wanted to work with some of our original food waste-hauling customers,” said Karen Dawson, director of marketing and community relations for Cedar Grove, “which included Cactus, Tavern Hall, El Gaucho, Tutta Bella, and the Seahawks — all locally owned, local decision makers, and a lot of restaurant owners.”
By expanding its existing partnerships, Cedar Grove saw Sound Sustainable Farms as a way to further promote sustainability at the local level, all while elevating the farm-to-table experience.
“We quickly understood, when presented with the idea from Sound Sustainable Farms, and were excited to be a part of something we felt was innovative and would deliver value and ultimately a better product for our guests,” said Marc Chatalas, CEO and co-founder of Cactus Restaurants and Tavern Hall. “It speaks very clearly to what we’ve been trying to do for a long time.”
Cactus Restaurants originally partnered with Cedar Grove through its food-hauling program in 2008, and has since diverted an estimated 72 tons of food waste annually to the local composting organization. Today, much of the produce Cactus and Tavern Hall utilize in their restaurants is grown from compost produced from their own food waste.
Chatalas said Cactus currently sources about 50 percent of its produce from Sound Sustainable Farms — excluding things like avocados, limes, and mangos that don’t easily grow in the Pacific Northwest — and Tavern Hall sources about 75 percent of its produce from the farm.
For Brent Novotny, culinary director for Cactus Restaurants and Tavern Hall, being able to bring in produce from a farm that’s only a half-hour drive away from the restaurants is especially exciting.
“It’s truly as farm-to-table as you can possibly get,” he said.
And the produce itself, Novotny added, is top quality.
“A couple weeks ago, we brought in some of their mixed baby carrots, and one of our chefs texted me like, ‘Wow, that’s an incredible carrot,’” said Novotny. “When someone is getting excited about a carrot coming in the door, that’s a pretty great thing.”
“It’s truly as farm-to-table as you can possibly get”
The excitement Novotny describes is something that he said trickles down to the customers.
“There’s a sense with the general public of wanting more education and wanting to know more about where their food is coming from,” said Novotny. “I think people are excited when they know something is being grown here, extremely local. There’s been nothing but positive comments.”
Sound Sustainable Farms currently is working with about nine local partners, as well as a couple food banks in the area. And, having only utilized 20 of the farm’s 60 acres in its first year, Dawson said there is opportunity for Sound Sustainable Farms to expand its existing partnerships, as well as form new ones, in 2018.
“Because this was our first year, you bite off a small chunk,” said Dawson. “But it’s exciting to see the appetite that the restaurants in this region have for locally grown, organic food.”