Where do I even begin? In June of 2010 we moved to Esmont to start this little experiment in farm to table living. At the time, everyone we knew was shocked that I made the move. Not we, but me specifically. When confronted directly, I assured folks that I was the one that actually found the house, and that, at the very least, having a farm would keep Will from starting another restaurant.
Well folks, this little homestead bought me eighteen months.
I am happy to announce that Will is starting a new restaurant in Charlottesville. The Whiskey Jar is on the Downtown Mall in the old Escafe space. The plan is southern food, focused on Virginia. Think pork chops with collard greens, black eyed pea salad with pickled green tomatoes and local goat cheese, you get the idea. And yes, as much of the food as possible will come from right here on Red Row Farm. Will has two fantastic partners in this venture, John and Cary, who many of you will recognize from Rev Soup Downtown. In fact, I bet the three of them are painting the new space at this very moment – and I mean that regardless of what time you are reading this blog post – these days I only see my husband if I visit at the restaurant and help decide between paint swatches. The Hook did a wonderful article on the work in progress that is The Whiskey Jar if you want to get a sneak peak at all the chaos.
As you can imagine, this was a bit of a shift in life plans. So let me walk you through the logic that took me from “I will never be a restaurant widow again” to “you need to do this.”
If money was not an object and Will could only ever do one profession, he would want to be a farmer. But back on planet Earth, where money is kind of a thing and life is pretty damn long, we finished off this growing season and took stock. The farm was losing money, largely due to the cost of organic pig feed. The produce had been profitable, but to overcome the start up costs of livestock, we’d need to grow more of it. And Will was already growing more than he alone could handle. If we had extra housing, we could staff up with WWOOFers, but we don’t. Paid labor would require producing more than we could likely yield on the land available, at least without some serious investments to make farming more efficient, like a tractor.
And then the commercial real estate agent who worked with Will on both Rev Soup locations and The Wine Guild called to say there was an opportunity right on the downtown mall. Will always wanted to own a sit down restaurant. A Clean, Well Lighted Place. With Rev Soup, he proved that you can serve delicious food made from real, local ingredients, in a paper cup, and charge a reasonable price. Because local food shouldn’t be a luxury. With The Whiskey Jar, he could open a restaurant that costs less than your babysitter, serving food made from the same real, local ingredients, in a style that is authentic to where it came from. And host musicians who play regional music. Or at least that’s the idea. Will is nothing if not a romantic.
After three years of being a work from home dad, Will has more than earned a shot at fulfilling his dream. To pull this off, we’re trading places. I’m now working part time, picking Alston up from school and relishing the chance to go to the park and watch him play with his friends. Heck, just being able to identify his classmates by name has washed away the working mom guilt I’ve been stockpiling. I should have made this transition years ago.
And Red Row Farm? I will save that update for another post. Suffice it to say that it will continue, and I even suspect it will improve. (Not that my husband was such a crappy farmer, but how much can you really get done when you have to quit work at 2 PM to pick up a toddler?) In the meanwhile, I’m staring at the seed and poultry catalogs that keep arriving at my door, contemplating just how different 2012 is shaping up to be.