Standing Stone Brewing Company

Brandon Schilling

Photo and Video Recap: Rogue Valley Farm Tour with Joel Salatin

We want to share some photos and a video from our memorable afternoon last month with author, lecturer and holistic farmer, Joel Salatin. Joel came to the Rogue Valley in March for a full weekend of tours and presentations on sustainable farming and eating, and the 2012 Rogue Valley Farm Faire.

The Jackson County Local Action Coalition (JCLAC) organized the multi-day affair, and we were thrilled to be a part of Saturday’s Rogue Valley Farm Tour 2012, with our friends at Valley View Beef.

After a fresh, local lunch in Valley View’s barn, we spent the afternoon with Joel and 60 other guests strolling the acres of our farmland on Eagle Mill Rd. in Ashland, OR. Our farm manager, Brandon Schilling, led the tour of our multi-species intensive grazing operation, where our cows, goats and chickens rotate across different sections of pasture. Joel joined in with guidance and input for sustainable agriculture strategies. We also visited our compost site on the farm, where we’re turning pre- and post-consumer food waste from our restaurant kitchen into nutrient rich soil.

The Mail Tribune/Daily Tidings joined us and took video of the Standing Stone portion of the tour, which you can view here for a recap and to learn more about our farm project.

We want to thank everyone who joined us for the full day of learning and touring, even with cold rain and wind leading us to thoughts of warm indoors.

If you’re interested in learning more about local food and farms and earth-friendly living, be sure to stop by Rogue Valley Earth Day at the ScienceWorks museum this Saturday, April 21st in Ashland, OR. There will be informational and educational talks, exhibits and entertainment for the whole family, 11-4pm. Stay tuned for more info coming soon!

Starting Up Our Rooftop and Farm Gardens + Tips for Yours

In Southern Oregon, spring keeps farmers and gardeners busy sowing seeds and transplanting starts. This year, we’ve joined the action. Our efforts launched last summer when we started a rooftop garden, and we began leasing farmland last fall to grow produce for our restaurant menu. We’re excited to get going on our farm and rooftop garden, with a full season ahead of us.

Melza Quinn, Standing Stone server and chicken caretaker (photo below), is also a gardener with a super green thumb. She’s been planting seeds for vegetables, herbs and flowers, including artichokes, basil, cauliflower, pink corn, kale, tarragon, tomatoes, hollyhocks, poppies, morning glories and sweet peas.

If you visit our restaurant and brewery, you’ll see some of our seedlings in the front window, getting their start in compostable cups. We’ve got many more inside under our skylights and grow lights.

When they’re ready for transplanting, we’ll take them to our rooftop garden and farm. We’ll leave a few inside the brewpub, too, to beautify the space while educating and captivating our guests.

On our farm, we’ll test them in different areas to find the best growing conditions. Over the winter, our farm team constructed some raised beds using a sheet mulching method. They laid down corrugated cardboard to squash out star thistle, then added a layer of mulch from spent grain and a layer of farm-fresh compost. This is a quick, easy, low-cost and successful way to start a garden in any area where you have grass or poor soil. Try it at home!

We chose heirloom varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, which specializes in heirloom varietals and gathers seed from a network of individuals who save seeds from home gardens and small farms. When buying seed, look for local growers and family farmers, too, like the Rogue Valley’s Siskiyou Seeds. If you have several friends who want to share a bulk seed order, the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative is a great option. They’re a co-op of small farmers in the western US who produce open-pollinated, organic varietals, including lots of heirlooms and select varietals adapted with traditional breeding. Their seed is available in bulk online.

We can’t wait until our efforts bear fruit – or veggies, herbs and flowers, to be exact! Growing food is a fascinating process that rewards us with fresh food, slashes food miles and eco-impact (especially if organic methods are used) and gives us exercise, fresh air and sunshine. What a delicious deal!

We hope you’ll join the fun and fulfillment by growing some of your own food. If you need guidance, contact your local Extension program or seed companies for information about when to plant specific crops in your area (from seed or transplanting starts), and optimal growing conditions for them. The Rodale Institute is a great source of information on organic gardening, too. If you need inspiration, stop by Standing Stone to say hello to our seedlings. Happy planting!

( photo credits: Top left – Rachel Koning, others – George Rubaloff

Standing Stone Farm Project Launches!

Melza, Alex Brandon and Rachel at our farm (photo: M. Schweisguth)

There’s an extra special buzz around here lately since we moved onto our new farmland on October 1st, launching the Standing Stone Farm Project. To prepare this new home for our chickens and cows, our farm team is spending lots of time there, especially Co-owner Alex, Server/Sustainability Coordinator Brandon Schilling, Server/Chicken Caretaker Melza Quinn and our fence and irrigation team. We’re excited about this latest step in our journey to produce our own food and shrink our environmental footprint.

We’ve long made it a priority to purchase sustainable and locally produced ingredients to maximize quality, reduce environmental impacts and support our local economy. Our menu features produce from diverse family farms, beer made with Alpha Beta hops, Rogue Creamery Cheese, regional wines and Noble Coffee, among other regional delights. We’ve also undertaken significant measures to reduce waste through landfill diversion while slashing energy use and installing solar panels.

In 2009, we began using beef from Valley View Beef in Ashland, OR and started musing about raising our own food. Since Valley View raises grass-fed beef on expansive, chemical-free pasture using rotational grazing, we asked owner Dave Westerberg if we could start a chicken flock there. He heartily agreed, and we got hens that produce all the eggs we need. We started our own composting operation there, too.

Seeking to produce more of our ingredients, we developed a plan for our own farm and began looking for land. Our plan included adding chickens for poultry, purchasing our own cattle and composting kitchen waste. As luck would have it, the City of Ashland put out a Request for Proposals for City-owned pasture a mile from our restaurant, so we applied.

After the City approved our proposal (hooray!), we started preparing by raising breeder chickens for poultry and purchasing cattle from a neighboring farm. Melza, who plays a central role in caretaking our egg layers, took the lead in researching and selecting heritage chicken breeds  for full-flavored poultry. We purchased chicks this summer, which are now growing hens that will reproduce to create our poultry flock. They’re Delaware, New Hampshire, Wyandotte, and Australorp breeds, coloring the pasture white, red, orange and black feathers. We also bought three Anatolian Shepherd sheepdogs, named IPA, Stone and Ruby, whom we’re training to herd our cows.

On October 1st, we began preparing the site for our chickens and cattle, starting with fence building. We’re looking forward to seeing our livestock make themselves at home in their spacious digs. Like Valley View, we’re using a rotational grazing system wherein cows and chickens cycle through different sections of pasture to prevent over-compaction and over-grazing, and help the land rejuvenate.

We’re working on additional farm activities to localize more of our food (bees…honey..mmmmm), further our environmental goals and welcome our community to learn and enjoy. For starters, we’re holding our Third Annual Pumpkins and Pints there on October 23, and invite all to attend. In additional to the usual pumpkin carving, food and drinks, Brandon and Melza will share our vision and plans for the farm, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with our chickens and cattle, who will be moved onto our farm by then. We hope to see you there!

Our Rooftop Garden: Sustainably Delicious Penthouse Produce

If you follow our blog or the news, you probably know that we’re getting ready to launch our own farming operation right here in Ashland, OR. We’re leasing land from the City and will be able to move in on October 1st. We’re counting the days!

We’re not waiting to start growing our own food, though. We’ve planted a rooftop garden to jump-start our in-house food sourcing, make the most of all of our brewpub’s space and tap into solar power in yet another way.

Though we’re already raising our own egg-producing free-range chickens, buying beef raised in Ashland and purchasing as many local and regional foods as we can get our hands on, we want to do more to get our ingredients closer to home. This maximizes flavor and minimizes environmental footprint – a double win.

Brandon Schilling, server and sustainability coordinator, has taken the lead to grow this effort, helping reduce food miles to mere feet.

Admittedly, it provides just a small part of what we use for our menu, but we believe in doing what we can. Any tiny step in the right direction takes us closer to a more sustainable world.

We started simple, with herbs like basil and mint. If you’ve noticed a new twist on favorites like our special mojitoes and select pizzas, that’s the taste of ultra-fresh, organic ingredients. We repurposed produce containers so they’ll keep delivering sustainable goodness.

As the weather’s become warmer and we’ve fine-tuned our skills, we’ve planted tomatoes, tomatilloes, cucumbers and strawberries. They’re happily thriving in repurposed 5-gallon buckets from ingredients and reused plant pots. We’re starting kale, beets, carrots and other greens for the fall and winter.

Our garden is fed with compost made from our restaurant kitchen scraps and spent grain from our brewery. As we work to localize food production, we’re also seeking to shrink the environmental impact of related inputs.

The next time you visit our restaurant, be sure to ask your server what foods and beverages feature our penthouse produce.

Till then, we hope you enjoy some recent photos and get inspired to start growing a bit of your own fresh food, no matter how much space you have.

To save money and maximize your positive environmental impact, reuse old containers for planters and look for things you can repurpose into plant supports. They’ll last for many seasons to come, keeping good materials our of landfills and saving the resources used to process the many reusable items that get recycled long before their useful life has ended.

Compost yard and kitchen scraps to amend your soil, too. Natural processes like this make expensive, prepared fertilizers, which often contain petroleum byproducts, unnecessary. Plant matter makes up much of what’s in our landfills, too. This wastes valuable materials we need to rebuild our world’s depleted soils and generates a lot of methane one of the most potent greenhouse gasses.

Now that’s really gardening with a green thumb, and the results are delicious for people and planet alike. Dig in!

Getting To Zero Waste

At Standing Stone Brewing Company, we’re passionate about serving great craft beer and food while improving the planet. Our efforts have gained some recognition recently, including placing #2 on the Oregon Business 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and the Ashland Conservation Commission “Conservation Heroes” Award.

While we’re honored by these commendations we’re always determined to do better. So, we set high goals for ourselves, including creating zero waste at our restaurant and brewery – sending nothing to the landfill.

Last year, Brandon Schilling, an SOU graduate and sustainability enthusiast, joined our restaurant family. Brandon does double duty as a server and Sustainability Coordinator and has brought lots of fresh ideas and practices to improve our environmental impact. We asked him to give us a peek into our zero waste journey and provide some tips for others.

1. How does Standing Stone work to achieve zero waste?

Our approach is to reduce our use of materials in the first place, then reuse, compost and recycle what’s left. We offer lots of house made products that involve less packaging, and we store our dry ingredients in reusable and washable glass jars. We feed our chickens with restaurant and brewery byproducts, including spent grain and hops and vegetable scraps. Of course, we recycle, too. As recycling has become the least effective “R,” however, we like to keep every resource that comes in to Standing Stone within our operation until the very end of its lifecycle! Our newest projects are all about completing the resource circle by converting items that are normally trashed into resources.

2. How does Standing Stone reduce materials use?

We save tons of glass every year by selling kegged wine from Wooldridge Creek and Misty Oaks. We buy locally from farmers who use durable packaging and sustainable delivery methods, like Village Farm’s bike delivery! We’ve switched individually packaged items to bulk items, such as tea and honey, and we repurpose our packaging. For instance, we reuse kitchen buckets for waste management bins, and turn produce crates and waxed boxes into garden planters.

3. How do employees learn and get involved?

Employee education includes hands-on exercises and presentations at staff meetings, as well as signage with pictures instead of words to help clear the confusion about what’s recyclable and what’s compostable. We offer Waste Management 101 as part of  new employees’ job training. Sorting reusables, compostables and recycling and understanding waste management is an integrative part of everyone’s jobs, and it’s all of our responsibility to be conscious of our sustainability policies and practices.

4. How can anyone work toward zero waste?

Start with being conscious of reducing the materials you use. Use metal water bottles, reusable grocery bags, cloth towels and napkins, or a handkerchief rather than tissue. Also consider making holiday cards from paper packaging, and saving glass jars and plastic containers for storage. Purchase produce from farmers markets (in reusable bags), choose bulk foods, and compost food scraps in your own back yard. And when you crave a fresh beer, bring in your reusable growler bottle for us to fill!

Thanks Brandon!  Feel free to post a comment with your own questions and ideas – we’re in this together! For more tips, see the No Impact Project and Earth91.org.

Standing Stone Places 6th in Siskiyou Challenge Relay Race!

Last Saturday, as the sun rose at 6:45am, the Standing Stone crew gathered at the inaugural Siskiyou Challenge, a multi-sport relay benefitting Rogue Valley Farm to School.

Clad in running shorts with kayaks and bikes in tow, five of our athletic and energetic employees collected in a pre-race huddle with supporting coworkers cheering around them.

Fifty three teams participated in this five-leg relay race. The beneficiary, Rogue Valley Farm to School, is a great nonprofit that connects schools and farms through educational programs and farm-to-cafeteria partnerships. The scenic course covered 46 miles around Ashland and Talent across land and water, touring farms, orchards, lakes and parks.

The weather and course were beautiful, the volunteers were amazing and we had a blast sharing the day with the rest of the participants and community. Team Standing Stone huffed and puffed and came in 6th overall with a time of 4:05:59!

Here is run down of the course and our participants for each:

  • 11K run – Rob Koning
  • 3K kayak course – Mike DuBois
  • 25 mile road bike – Brandon Schilling
  • 9.5 mile mountain bike – David Conley
  • 5K run – Gina Velando

Racers crossed the finish line at ScienceWorks to enjoy good food, live music and the company of their teammates, fellow racers and supporters. Treats at the post-race festival included baked goods from Ashland Food Cooperative, coffee and pastries from  Rogue Valley Roasting Co and handmade ice cream in fresh waffle cones from Artik Creamery. Standing Stone was a lead sponsor and provided a free post-race meal and beer to all participants, of course using lots of local food.

We were thrilled to participate in the Siskiyou Challenge, both as a racing team and as a sponsor since we’re a long time supporter of RVF2S. We want to thank RVF2S for the great race and all the participants for a huge turnout. Siskiyou Challenge, we’ll see you next year and we hope to see an even bigger turnout at this great event!