But all our food was produced that way, once.
Yes. The change in American manufacturing all goes back to 1943 when the Americans came to Germany and saw the autobahns. They were absolutely amazed. The autobahns led to the U.S. interstate system, and that was the basis of the true American revolution, because it allowed producers to create massive production facilities. Much more efficient—and with cheap gas, they could distribute all over the country.
The problem is, they applied that same efficiency not just to manufactured products, but to food and beverage, and that led to the manufacturing of beer and the processing of food. In 2008, we have the most efficient food distribution system in the world. We also have the most polluted food chain in the world, because in order to do that, you have to take a perishable food and turn it into a non-perishable commodity.
If there’s a problem, you can source it in a small system, but it’s harder in a large system.
Now you’re talking. If you want to talk national security, that is a real issue. If I wanted to hurt this country, I’m not going to take a bomb, thank you very much. Go to one of those big food-manufacturing facilities and sprinkle a can on the conveyor belt. You could poison half the east coast in one afternoon, very simple.
I decided the diversification of the food chain as the best thing we can do, not just from a health point of view, but also from a national security point of view.
And now we’re getting into the next political hot potato, which is health care reform. You can’t solve health care without solving the food chain issue. If you poison your body, and then expect the health care system to pick up the pieces, well…It’s either pay now or pay later. That’s what we’re doing: now, the way we live is pay later. Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper food.
I deal with farm tenants all my life. I’ve seen them go out to work in the morning, to sit on that $170,000 shiny tractor. And what do they take with them? Five cans of coke, and a bag of snacks from the snack machine. That’s a classic example of something they’ll have to pay for down the road.
Our mission as a little business is to reduce the food chain from 2,000 miles to 200. If you do that, now you have natural food and natural beer. With vegetables, it’s fairly straightforward: you have a farmers’ market, and it works.
The problem is meat. You can’t just take a little cow, chop it up and take it to market. It doesn’t work: there is another skill level involved. And that is the craft or master butcher. Again, the parallels to brewing are amazing. The butcher is not a meat hacker. He is a qualified craftsman, just like the brewer.
Our concept is the celebration of craft: the craft of brewing, the craft of butchering, the craft of farming, and the culinary craft. And the other two crafts that are critical to a community are arts and music. We have an upstairs for those, where we can have festivals and events. Then you can bring all the crafts and the community together.
So this is Weeping Radish Farm Brewery in Currituck?
This is in Currituck. It’s a 15,000 square foot building. We have a 14-acre organic farm in the back. Its divided between an organic farm, and a butchery which is a joint venture with a fifth generation German master butcher.
The next level is this: we went to Johnson and Wales, the culinary school in Charlotte, to set up an internship program.
The culinary trade in this country is menu-driven, which means every chef—or food corporation—designs a menu, and the menu drives the purchase of food. We’re trying to turn this upside down: the farm and the butchery drive the menu. What we want to do with Johnson and Wales is to create a internship program that allows culinary students to come to Currituck, live on the farm, work on the farm, work in the butchery, work in the kitchen, and then spend three months in Germany to truly understand the craft of butchery. Once you combine a knowledge of farming with the knowledge of culinary and butchery, now you have truly created an integrated food chain all the way through.