GUEST COLUMN: Farmer kudos

Red Door Family Farm

Submitted photo

Red Door Family Farm

We would like to thank the City Pages for its coverage of local food in its recent Get With the Program publication. As the “Farm to plate” article stated, there has been an embrace of local food by Wausau area restaurants. As farmers who work with these institutions, we want to point out there is a clear leader: Red Eye Brewing Company is the most committed restaurant to local food by far.

This restaurant is not tokenizing the positive trend of local food in a way that casual customers could be unaware of. Red Eye prioritizes local food on its menu in a way that makes it real and vibrant. They take the meaning of the word local to mean supporting the community that supports them.

It starts with co-owner and brew master Kevin Eichelberger who, like other microbrewers throughout the country, have led the local food revolution by crafting beer that is of our community, and by our community, with local culture and local ingredients such as pumpkins and maple syrup as its muse.

Chef Nate Bychinski has prioritized local in dramatic ways by being as flexible as he is creative. Seasonal ingredients harvested at the peak of ripeness are catnip to him, and the community has taken notice. His chef’s menu is a tribute to local food celebrating the season in a way only local farmers can provide.

The main menu continues to shrink the Sysco order by working with local farmers to incorporate food available year round. The greens that you eat at Red Eye are from 30 miles away, as are the root crops for carrot cakes, reubens, and sides, and even specialty meats. The list is substantive and expanding.

Chen, Olivia, and the kitchen staff are equally committed to prepping whole organic seasonal foods. The wait staff is courteous, professional, and know where the farms and the ingredients come from, as they are essential to the dish.

From a farming business perspective, Red Eye’s commitment to local food moves it from a marginal restaurant account to one that allows us to pay for necessary improvements on our farms or even take vacations.

After we finish at the Saturday Wausau farmers market, Chef Nate takes much of what we have, waving us in during Red Eye’s busy lunch and encouraging us to parade our heaping bushels through the restaurant in our rough Carhartt work clothes and farm baseball caps. As market growers we reciprocate with an appreciated “farmer happy hour.”

Compared to other accounts in the area, Red Eye is a far greater buyer of our local products. Local can be defined in many ways: 100-mile radius, within the state, etc. The most substantive definition: A food community created by proximate geographical distance.

What does this mean to us? Because we are close to Wausau, it is our social and economic hub, it is the basis of our business, our commerce, and where we go for a night on the town. As farmers we are of this community not only because of proximity, but also because we feel truly connected to it thanks largely to the support of its hippest and most locavore of restaurants.

The pleasure of eating in Wausau is greatly enhanced and its economy strengthened by the vision and commitment of the crew at Red Eye Brewing Company. We wanted people who care about eating to know.

Tony Schultz owns Stoney Acres Farm, and Stacey Botsford owns Red Door Family Farm, both located near Athens.