Not long after Eddyline Restaurant and Brewery opened last spring, Arrowpoint Cattle Company of Nathrop brought manager Brian England a sample of their grass-fed beef. Brian grilled up a burger on the brewpub’s pecan-fired grill. He recently described to me that meal as “almost a religious experience.” The business of Eddyline’s first summer, combined with the assumption that local, grass-fed beef would be cost-prohibitive, prevented the pub from serving that burger to their customers.
Now that has all changed. The Eddyline crew- owners Mic and Molly Heynekamp and managers Brian England and Ryan McFadden- has undertaken what Brian describes as a “crusade” not only to source 85% of their ingredients from within a 200-mile radius, but to do so without significantly increasing their prices.
“We want to prove to our customers” Brian says, “that you don't have to pay a premium price for something just because it is good for you or has a label of organic, natural or local.”
Preliminary results are encouraging. While Eddyline’s overall sales have stayed pretty consistent since the first of the year, burger sales have increased 25% since the pub began serving burgers from Arrowpoint Farms’ grass-fed Highland Scottish Cattle three weeks ago. And that’s just the start. Eddyline is already sourcing eggs, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, chicken, quinoa and flour locally (see below for a list of suppliers). They’re in the process of finding other local suppliers for many other ingredients, and they plan to begin serving all grass-fed steaks on April 1st.
So after over a decade in the restaurant industry, why has the Eddyline crew suddenly gone local? There are several factors.
First, they have learned that Buena Vista and the surrounding region is a different kind of market from Socorro Springs, New Mexico, the location of their other brewpub, which opened in 1999. Brian described to me a conversation he had about grass-fed beef not long after Eddyline opened with The Clocktower Flat owners John and Allison Abdelnour. “At the time I had seen some pricing from local farmers, and it would have increased our cost on a burger by double. I had asked John and Allison if they were willing to pay $15 for a burger. They simply said ‘yes.’ I was more shocked than anything by their response; no one had ever given me an answer like that. At the time I was still stuck in the mindset that local, organic, natural food was very expensive and would cost too much.”
Next, Brian and company discovered that local, organic, natural foods don’t, in fact, have to cost more. While many of these products do cost more from big suppliers like Sysco, Eddyline has discovered that simply bypassing these suppliers and buying directly from the farmer makes the cost of a product like San Luis Valley potatoes very reasonable. While Sysco buys potatoes from farmers in the San Luis Valley, just 90 miles south of Buena Vista, they not only mark up the price, but they repackage the produce in such a way that you can’t tell where the potatoes are from.
So now Eddyline buys potatoes and other produce directly from farmers in the San Luis Valley for an affordable price which is higher than what Sysco pays them. In the case of potatoes, they’ve found that by shredding their own hashbrowns, their cost is far lower than buying dehydrated hashbrowns from Sysco. So now they have a lower cost, higher quality hashbrown, which allowed Eddyline to spend a bit more on high quality pasture-fed eggs from My Safe Haven Farms in the San Luis Valley while keeping the cost of a breakfast dish consistent. This model of on-site production also provides extra labor for the local economy.
The final factor which was the tipping point for the Eddyline crew was watching the acclaimed documentary Food, Inc. “If I didn't have 2 kids,” Brian told me, “I probably wouldn't have been impacted so much. But there is absolutely no way that I would allow my kids to grow up unhealthy… We had been standing on this subsidized corn pile, looking down at the green lush valley wishing we could get down there; however it was going to be too hard, cost too much, and we were content where we were. This movie pushed us off that pile.”
On St. Patrick’s Day, this March 17th, Eddyline will be showcasing all the green changes they’ve been making with a three course dinner using almost exclusively local ingredients. Numerous local producers will attend the dinner to speak about the food being served. Eddyline is brewing a special edition of the South Main Stout for the occasion using malt from Colorado Malting Company in the San Luis Valley.
Clearly Eddyline is taking this effort quite seriously. Brian is currently looking into joining the board of Guidestone Colorado, a local non-profit dedicated to stewardship of the agricultural resources of the Upper Arkansas River region by fostering a local food economy, sustainable development and ecological literacy. “Guidestone is showing me that it’s not about finding the local food economy but creating it,” Brian says.
And the beauty is that Eddyline serves enough food to make a very real difference in fostering that local food economy. “I believe this whole valley can transform back into a ranching and agricultural haven. I think we (Eddyline) can bring to the table the ability to prove to the farmers, ranchers and land owners that not only is there a demand for locally grown items, but an absolute need. We have the chance to turn this valley into something amazing. We can create a whole new local food economy and create a whole new local food culture, which would be created out of consumer wants and desires.”
For those of us in the South Main office, it’s a real thrill to watch these changes taking place. In the end, the South Main vision is about creating a vibrant community in a sustainable way. Now we get to watch that take place in real time. Brian describes how impactful it was when Nancy from Arrowpoint Farms came to Eddyline recently. “Seeing the rancher that raised the cattle, that supplied the restaurant, and then watching the rancher talk to the customers that were eating her beef at our restaurant....it was awesome.”
Supplier List provided by Eddyline manager Brian England:
Quinoa (we are currently purcashing this through Grower's Organic, but I am looking to purchase directly). White Mountain Farms, Mosca, CO
Barley and Malt - (our first beer will be brewed with this Malt on Tuesday. The South Main Stout just got a local upgrade) Jason with Colorado Malting Company, San Luis Valley. He grows and malts everything in-house.
Spices- Colorado Spice Company, Boulder, CO. (not grown locally, but locally packed. This is one of the few things that we will have to import into the state)
Flour - Rocky Mountain Milling Company. The grain that they purchase is from Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, but is fully organic (This could be a huge opportunity for someone to create a milling company in the San Luis Valley). They are located in Denver.
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