By Kate Miley
The Nature Conservancy’s People’s Choice Nature’s Plate Award seeks to highlight environmentally sustainable restaurants across the country. The votes have all been counted, and in major cities across the U.S., the people’s favorite “green” restaurants are receiving their due praise.
In Washington, D.C., this year’s champ is a popular local restaurant and bar: Founding Farmers. Located near the White House, Founding Farmers is situated on Pennsylvania Avenue near the intersection of 20th Street.
In capturing the Nature’s Plate Award, Founding Farmers garnered the most votes through two rounds of online and mobile voting. The restaurant’s victory seems not so surprising, considering the deep commitment to the planet that comes through when I speak with Dan Simons, concept developer and managing partner for Founding Farmers.
“For us, it’s interesting because sustainability, or being green, is not a tactic or strategy,” says Simons. “We are green because it’s in our DNA.”
The restaurant is owned and was started by American family farmers — the North Dakota Farmers Union, to be exact. Having farmers at the heart of its operations guides the restaurant from start to finish — from your plate to the planet.
“You can’t be an American family farmer and not think about sustainability and your impact on environment and the community,” says Simons. “Part of being an American family farmer is wanting to pass along the farm to the next generation.”
According to Simons, these ideas inspired the restaurant’s oft-repeated motto: “Through the eyes of the farmer.”
“That perspective means a lot to us. The message we want to get out there is the message of the American family farmer,” he explains. “That message is that the planet matters; the next generation matters; the quality of what we put into our bodies, ground, and animals matters.”
These concepts also fuel the restaurant’s forays into the world of sustainability. For example, they compost locally, work with George Washington University on bee-keeping and seek LEED-certified restaurant spaces.
Under the direction of the American family farmer, Founding Farmers is forging a new path for urban restaurants: satisfying its guests without sacrificing the planet.
And as D.C. diners have now affirmed, Founding Farmers is wildly successful at delivering food that’s not only sustainable, but also tastes great.
Kate Miley is a field correspondent intern for The Nature Conservancy.