The values of the American family farmer are at the heart of all we do at Founding Farmers. Like the more than 40,000 family farmers who own our restaurant, we strive to work hard and operate with a genuine concern for our land and our community. We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy high-quality food that is delicious, and grown with care.
Welcome to our table.
Our story began in 2005 when the members of North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) began talking about the future. They were looking for a way to bring their products directly to consumers. They wanted to take people back to the source, to the foods that are grown, raised, and harvested on American family farms. They wanted to affirm that family farming was, and remains, essential to our nation’s well-being.
Mark Watne, a third-generation farmer and president of NDFU, and his farming community partners wanted the best venue possible to showcase their passion and dedication to the fresh, farm-to-table concept. And Founding Farmers was born.
They chose our nation’s capital as a fitting site for the new restaurant, and sought the help of two proven restaurant industry experts, Dan Simons and Mike Vucurevich of VSAG, to transform the concept into a thriving business.
Even in the midst of a grim recession, the team believed their idea would work, that people would be hungry for accessible, quality, and responsibly-farmed food. And they were right. As Founding Farmers has proven one of the Washington, D.C. area’s most innovative and successful culinary ventures.
Our restaurant is owned by the more than 40,000 family farmers of NDFU and is supplied by hundreds of family farms everywhere. That doesn’t mean we know every farm, and that doesn’t mean we never have to buy product from the traditional (corporate) supply chain, but it does mean we’re working hard to direct our purchasing dollars where it aligns with our values. The “as much as possible” prefix is important; we want to provide transparency, and acknowledging that it isn’t feasible to promise we know the source of every morsel is important. We’re serving the best food we can, made from scratch in our kitchens every day. We aren’t perfect by any means but we continually strive to unbundle the industrial supply chain by cooking, mixing, and baking from scratch. We are constantly looking for suppliers that align with our principles. Our innovative, American dishes are made primarily with pure ingredients honoring the farmers and their hard-earned bounty.
We make every effort to embody the values of the farmers who own us and partner with us. For us, that means paying attention to every detail: from the way we treat our team like family to the way we choose our product. For example, the flour we choose to make our bread comes from the state-owned North Dakota Mill, therefore the profits go directly back to the people of North Dakota. Also, we incorporate recycled and refurbished materials when designing and building our restaurants, as well as compost and recycle waste in efforts to uphold our environmental and social responsibility. Mindfulness, honesty, and accountability are ingrained in us because it is the farmer’s way.
Our name “Founding Farmers” is a nod to our Founding Fathers, many of whom were devoted farmers long before they became trailblazers for our country. While those leaders built and contributed to the American agricultural tradition, we recognize that our mission is also about growing a new venture with farmers at the root: one that strengthens their livelihood, gives back to the community, and makes quality food accessible to all.