Thank you ALL for your amazing support that enabled us reach our goal in JUST 2 weeks! We have added a "stretch goal" to assist us with the closing costs and taxes associated with purchasing the building.
Help us reach $50,000!
Sarah Walzer and Toby Diltz own and operate The Blind Pig Kitchen in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Our farm-to-table restaurant focusses on using solely local, organic/natural and sustainable products, all grown or produced within 65 miles of the restaurant. In addition, we run a small farm on 5 1/2 acres just outside Benton, Pennsylvania. Help us stay in Bloomsburg! We are seeking to raise $35k to keep us in the building that is home to The Blind Pig Kitchen. This will ensure that we stay involved in our community, supporting the local economy, and continuing to offer access to fresh, seasonal and ethically sourced foods from sustainable farms in Central/North-Eastern Pennsylvania.
Toby grew up not far from Bloomsburg in a small town called Hetlerville. His passion for farming and cooking using fresh ingredients came from his time spent as a young boy on his Great-Grandfather’s farm, as well as the time spent with his mother and grandfather picking fresh fruits and vegetables, and learning about pickling and preserving. Growing up in a family of hunters, he learned how to butcher animals and maximize the yield, but also gained an awareness of the importance of a quick and humane slaughter. He has incorporated these lessons from his youth into his philosophy as a chef and farmer, and has found that creating dishes with responsibly sourced ingredients creates the best flavors as well as the most nutrient density.
It wasn't clear that Sarah would end up a restauranteur. As a child she was encouraged to explore her creative side including theatre, ballet, and horseback riding. Growing up in the early eighties in Topanga, California, a daughter of two vegetarian parents, she was taught the importance of whole, healthy eating and living. Sugar cereals and TV were a rare occurrence in her household. Instead the family subsisted on “Morning Star” products and home slide shows of family trips. From a young age, Sarah’s paternal grandmother traveled with her throughout CA exploring botanical gardens, restaurants and art museums. This early exposure to travel was a formative experience for her and blossomed into many more trips to Europe, a year studying abroad in Bologna, Italy and finally a career in the contemporary art world, which required extensive international travel. It wasn't until she spent 5 years in NYC, that she began to feel the “burn out” and dreamed of a life full of nature, animals and…something more. In 2013, Sarah joined “FarmersOnly.com” and met Toby. They had both checked the box in their profiles for “other: nature lover.” In July 2013, Sarah left NYC to join Toby in rural PA and explore an alternative lifestyle.
About the Farm
Our love of plants and animals, and our passion for great food brought us together, and we quickly realized that the only way to do what we love and spend the most time together would be to open a restaurant using the best local ingredients. We began building on our dream of farming and running a local foods based restaurant and were married in a ceremony on our farm in October 2016. Along the way, we’ve erected a greenhouse, built several gardens, an outbuilding for our laying flock, and a chicken tractor for growing meat chickens. We grow an array of vegetables for the restaurant including kale swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, lettuces, asparagus, garlic, peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and culinary herbs.
On the farm we pasture raise 100% of the chicken needed for the restaurant (about 600 birds per year) and grow 4-6 heritage breed pigs per year in our walnut grove. We have a free range flock of heritage egg layers who provide eggs for the restaurant and we raise a handful of turkeys every year as well.
In the past two years we’ve planted over 60 fruiting trees including a variety of old-world heritage apples, as well as peach, apricot, plum, cherry, persimmon, pawpaw, almond, mulberry, chestnut and pear trees. Each year we add more perennial fruit-bearing plants to expand on our biodiversity, and work towards a self-sustaining permaculture on our farm. We have also incorporated a large variety of fruiting bushes: red and black raspberries, blueberries, hazelnuts, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, boysenberries, grapes, seaberries, kiwi berries and cranberries. Pollination is a very important part of our production so we have introduced mason bees and dabbled in honey bees as well.
This past Spring, we built our “secret garden” which houses native flowering plants, in order to attract more beneficial insects. There are other natural edibles on the farm, including wild grapes, ramps, ostrich ferns and black walnuts, and we harvest spruce tips, cattail pollen and sumac on bordering properties. We also make maple syrup and black walnut syrup from trees on our farm.
Over the past few years, we have collaborated and learned from a tight knit group of sustainable farmers and PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) who have shared their knowledge with us. This has allowed us to quickly learn how to pasture poultry, build fences for animal enclosures, take care of our soil and leave a minimal imprint on our environment. While we are not certified organic, and neither are the majority of the farms we work with, we all use organic methods in our growing operations.
About the Restaurant
In the Spring of 2015, the owners of a small Indian restaurant in Bloomsburg were planning to retire after being open for 15 years. Toby had been watching the restaurant building for many years and when it became available we decided to risk everything and share our dream and open a restaurant.
We work with around 30 different farms and producers within a 65 mile radius of the restaurant. We believe sustainability means growing plants and animals in a way that mimics what happens in nature without human involvement, but also, trying to minimize our consumption of resources, including water, power and fossil fuels. True sustainability also means providing a safe working environment for employees with fair wages and honest relationships.
We support a variety of farms who are growing produce naturally, and we use different methods of preserving in order to be able to serve these products year-round. The focus of the food is on the quality of ingredients and choosing a preparation that highlights the natural taste of the food. Our cuisine is influenced by many different cultures. We make fresh pasta, crackers and other baked goods using local organic flour and free range eggs from our own laying flock. We do whole animal butchering for all of the meats served at our restaurant, including making sausages, smoking and curing meats.
As all new businesses, especially restaurants, we have gone through growing pains. We realize that a good part of what we do is educating the local population about the value of raising and eating whole foods and nutrition. We spend time nurturing relationships with the farmers and producers we work with and sharing with our customers the importance of animal and plant health and treatment. We have recently completed our second year of our "Meet The Farmer" dinner series. During these meals, diners experience a prix fixe tasting menu with ingredients from a specific farm accompanied by the farmer to speak about farming methods, their specialty products and engage in dialogue with the audience.
In order to help keep the restaurant afloat in slower times, we expanded into catering, thus being able to expose more people to our idea of sustainability and cuisine. We have partnered with our local non profit theatre, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, to donate our catering services for their annual "Pitchfork to Plate" fundraiser.
Eighty eight per cent of the money we spent on food last year went to farms, producers and foragers in our immediate area; that was approximately $100,000 we put into our local economy, but also towards keeping these farmers, these stewards of the land, able to continue to grow food in a way that replenishes the soil and keeps the land in our area clean and healthy.
We believe that if folks all across the world could create these local connections with sustainable farmers, then there would be much less of a need for healthcare, the Earth could be nurtured back to health, and the local economies would be stronger.
While our restaurant is profitable, it is a very thin margin. We’ve been able to build our infrastructure at the restaurant and our farm in order to prepare us for many years to come, but we haven’t had the time to build the profit necessary to buy the building that we are currently leasing. The owner needs to sell and has offered us the right of first refusal.
This is where we need your help. We are hoping to raise $35,000 which is the amount we need for the down payment towards the purchase of the building. Check out the incentives! If you are unable to support our cause at this time, please do whatever you can to treat our planet with the respect it deserves.
Risks and challenges
Running a true farm-to-table restaurant is challenging in many ways. Our biggest challenge is the inequality in the US food system which makes mass-produced, irresponsibly grown plants and animals more affordable for those lower income folks that need them most. This creates an elitism associated with these sustainable “healthy” products, because of the higher expense of growing food naturally. It has become a trend in the restaurant industry to claim support of local farms. Many restaurants will buy one or two things from a local farm just to appear as if they are supporting local farms for marketing. This is called “greenwashing” and has serious negative impacts on restaurants like ours. Customers then compare our prices to those restaurants and think we’re gouging them. This dishonest advertising devalues the work we and all of our farmers do. There is no regulatory agency checking on this. It’s important to ask where your food comes from, but also to double check with the farm to make sure.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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