Farm to Fork & Plough to Pint

(image: Ellie Cook, The Root Cellar)

Ellie Cook ’12, co-owner of The Root Cellar

(image: David Thuss, The London Brewing Co-operative)

David Thuss ’05, co-owner of The London Brewing Co-operative

Within one month of graduating from King’s with her BA (honors specialization in English and Social Justice and Peace Studies), Ellie Cook ‘12, along with three co-owners, opened The Root Cellar in London, Ontario’s historic Old East Village. The funky 19-seat café/juice bar expanded its operations in 2014 to become a full 60-seat establishment, with menu items made from certified organic ingredients grown and produced within a 1 hour’s drive from London. 

Also in 2014, The Root Cellar incubated The London Brewing Co-op (LBC), co-owned by David Thuss ’05 (honors BA in English and Political Science), providing space for a nano-brewery system and exclusively serving LBC beers. In 2016, LBC moved to a larger location that allows them to operate a microbrewery and provides a space for beer tastings and other small events.  

The owners of The Root Cellar and LBC are committed to using locally sourced and organic ingredients, and operate with a co-operative business model that allows all employees to have a voice in the organization. 

Alumni Ellie and David recently shared some thoughts about their organizations and on supporting local businesses:

What would you say is the biggest benefit of supporting local businesses? 

Ellie: Investing time, energy and money locally contributes to the excitement of a thriving neighbourhood. We have seen first hand in the Old East Village how these efforts support and benefit local families. 

David: By supporting local businesses you help shape your community. It can be challenging to break away from the lifestyle that television and big corporations encourage with the perception of quick and convenient one-stop shopping, but trips to the market can easily become family adventures, a way to meet local merchants, and an opportunity to try new things.

What are some ways that alumni can integrate local, sustainable choices into their lives? 

Ellie: Eat local. Shop local. Support local. Realize that urban vibrancy depends on small businesses thriving. Make connections with the folks running small businesses in your city. Support the farmers and food producers who are working their land in an ecological way. 

David: There are so many avenues for integrating local and that generally means thinking about how we spend our time. Instead of that quick bite or coffee on the run, why not sit down and enjoy it - bring your partner, your family, your friends - incorporate it into your day-to-day routine. And instead of driving to the beer store, drop into your neighbourhood brewery! 

Why is it important to you, both professionally and personally, to support local businesses?

Ellie: From the very beginning, The Root Cellar’s mission has been to strengthen our local organic food system by supporting London’s farming community. By using ingredients that are locally sourced, the menu at The Root Cellar changes to match the seasonal bounty of southwestern Ontario, and, with that, we strive to educate urban consumers about the importance - and joy! - of eating locally. I believe that if we value strong and resilient communities, we need to spend our money locally. By supporting local businesses, we support the livelihoods of our friends and neighbours, and increase the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods.

David: I grew up on a family farm and my father was a small-business owner so I understood from a young age what it means to survive entirely on what you are able to sell. For me, it's important to know there's a face and story that goes along with what I buy. It's also about building community; it's amazing the connections you make and how it energizes your day when you see these local business owners, can say hi, and know that they also care about the community that you live in. 

Recommendations from the proprietors:
London Brewing Co-operative’s Tolpuddle Porter, a rich and nutty dark beer, paired with The Root Cellar’s fresh house-made butternut squash gnocchi

This article appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the King's Herald