A chef and a farmer walk into a bar — and raise it.
Chef Micah Mowrey has worked in some of the most highly-rated restaurants in the world — the kind with a twinkling trinity of Michelin stars. But, the Alaska native was bothered by the fact that the food he was cooking at the world’s most amazing restaurants was only available to the relatively few select people who could afford to eat there. Inspired by the cuisine of chef Michael Anthony, his mentor and former employer at Gramercy Tavern, his travels through Japan and Europe, and farmers like Zaid Kurdieh of Norwich Meadows Farm in New York, Mowrey set out to make good food more accessible. “Good food starts where it’s grown,” said Mowrey. So, he bought a farm with business partner and farmer Alex Meizlish in the Sammamish River Valley between Redmond and Woodinville and called it Ecolibrium — a state of balance between a community and its ecosystem.
Their goal is to integrate organic food and sustainable farming practices into local businesses and restaurants. To that end, they have developed partnerships with restaurants like Homegrown and Barking Frog, and Matthews Winery, and are currently pursuing a relationship with Microsoft, where they hope to transform underutilized outdoor spaces on campus into thriving produce gardens for the tech company’s on-site restaurants. Unlike most farm-restaurant partnerships, where the farmer lets the restaurant know what’s available on a weekly basis, Ecolibrium works more like a CSA, where restaurants commit to purchasing an entire crop. For example, there is a “Homegrown” cherry tomato block on the farm where that entire product is earmarked for the sandwich company.
Last summer, they partnered with Matthews Winery to add a CSA for customers. CSA boxes were supplemented with additional produce from Ecolibrium Farms. Matthews Winery also began offering periodic farm-to-table dinners during the summer. Mowrey and Meizlish sourced all of the food from a 10-mile radius, including proteins like chicken, lamb, and beef, from nearby farms. Mowrey cooked on-site using an open flame fire pit and a tiny outdoor kitchen. The results were nothing short of fantastic, all served family-style and paired with Matthews’ wines in the tasting room.
Back at the farm, Mowrey and Meizlish are throwing a series of eight dinner parties to season ticket holders called “Under the Walnuts.” Sixteen guests will gather beneath the canopy of a walnut grove at the back of the farm (12 season ticket holders and four seats available a la carte) for a locally sourced dinner cooked by various Seattle-area chefs. “Food is only part of the meal. We are trying to craft the whole experience of community,” says Mowrey.
In addition to growing food and cooking meals, the pair is actively trying to bring local farmers together as collaborators as well as pursuing a voice in local governments. ecolibriumfarms.com