Pizza’zza is a small, local, family-owned business. That means we live where we do business. Our kids go to the same schools and play in the same parks your kids do. It means we’ll run into you at the farmers market and Boulevard Park. You’ll get to know us, and we’ll get to know you. And because we live here, we care about our community. There are hundreds of businesses like us in Whatcom County. There are hundreds who are decidedly not like us and the other local businesses here.
When you spend your dollar with us, significantly more of your money is returned to the community. When you visit a chain restaurant (not naming names here), much less stays in our community. (Studies on exactly how much vary depending on location; click these links for a nice summary of the research and reasons to buy from locally owned businesses.) When you buy a pie from us, that’s your money that goes to other local businesses and farms (Skagit River Ranch, Fairhaven Flour Mill, and on and on), local taxes (read: schools, fire, police, etc.), donations to local service organizations and non-profits (Common Threads Farm, Food to Bank On, etc.), and employee wages (and all the places those wages go).
When you visit that unnamed pizza chain, most of your money leaves our community. It goes to pay out-of-state accountants, purchase goods and services from other large out-of-state chain retailers and distributors, and make charitable contributions outside of our community. (On average, nonprofits receive 250% more support from small businesses than large businesses).
This narrative isn’t just about the personal vote you cast with your personal (local?) checking account though. It’s also a tale of the choices the businesses you support make. When you visit that unnamed chain restaurant (pick your villain here), where are they casting their vote? More likely than not, it is far afield of Whatcom County.
"... an average of 35% of our total food purchases come from local farms and producers in Whatcom and
When you buy from one of Whatcom County’s own, your money is going to support other local businesses. To belabor this point (because it’s important), consider that here at Pizza’zza, an average of 35% of our total food purchases come from local farms and producers in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. For us, that means $62,550 dollars reinvested in our local farms and producers in the past year.
And this brings us to Sustainable Connections. We are a proud business member of Sustainable Connections because they work thoughtfully, effectively and tirelessly to ensure that Whatcom County has a vibrant economy. And that helps all of us. Most of you are likely familiar with Sustainable Connections on some level. At the very least, their own market research suggests you are familiar with the Think Local – Buy Local – Be Local campaign. They do much more though: Sustainable Business Development, Green Building and Smart Growth, Food and Farming, Energy Efficiency & Renewables, and Think Local First.
Obviously, the one that is nearest and dearest to our pizza-loving hearts is the Food and Farming program. In fact, Will is an active participant in the Chef’s Collaborative, and we are supporters of Food to Bank On, all activities of Sustainable Connections Food and Farming program. (The specifics of our involvement with these programs is a story for another blog day, so stay tuned!)
Mind you, I’m not here to lecture (although it is a quality I possess in spades; just ask our kids). You spend your hard-earned cash how you wish. My purpose is to share with you our thoughts, ideals, and values and why we do what we do. As you do, we work hard for our little slice of the pie, and we want our money out there working hard to support our neighbors and the places we enjoy spending time. We’re lucky to call Whatcom County home and are proud to do our part to help it thrive.
Kids are where it’s at. They are beautifully, comically impressionable. You can convince them of anything. If you tell them that purple monkeys live on the moon and make nightly visits to paint the backdrop of their dreams, they believe you. You can even convince them you are a super hero. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear our kids call Will, “Ironman.” (Although I do suspect they are clever enough at this age to have caught on.) But wait a minute, you say. These are our impressionable youth, we shouldn’t be making up fanciful stories for our amusement and at their expense. And for this, I will say, you are absolutely, 100% correct. Just remember Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny though. Ouch.
Point is, kids are primed for learning. And not just facts and figures; they are developing an ethos for life. It’s why parents around the world steep their children in their culture, values, and religious tenets. We attempt to shape their deepest held values to guide them safely into adulthood. It's our job.
So what does all this have to do with pizza anyway? You've probably already figured out that one of our deepest held values here at Pizza’zza is to provide you with great food, cooked with care, and sourced locally and sustainably. As I've written about here before, we believe that this ethic begins with children. If you teach children about good food and connect them with were it comes from, they will grow into adults who are good eaters, good stewards, and maybe even, good cooks. And that’s all well and good for us and our kids, and you and your kids, but what about all the other kids out there?
Fortunately Bellingham is lucky enough to have Common Threads Farm whose mission it is to make sure kids get a proper introduction to food. Eloquently, and in their own words: “At Common Threads, we grow good people, healthy food, and strong communities through hands-on, seed-to-table educational experiences.” More specifically, Common Threads provides garden and food education in many of Bellingham’s schools as well as operates on-farm summer camps, like Camp Pizza (sign us up!).
We at Pizza’zza think this is a pretty cool and important thing to do. So important that Pizza’zza was the first sponsor of Common Thread’s new business sponsorship program. The money donated by local businesses goes to ensure that no school is denied access to food and gardening education because of inability to pay. This new business sponsorship program ensures equity of access to food and gardening education for school children, regardless of the incomes of the folks in their neighborhood or which school they happen to attend. (If your business wants to get in on the action, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Our involvement goes beyond simple monetary contributions; Will donates his time to Common Threads Farm by serving on their board of directors. Yes, we love Common Threads that much. You see, Will and I are children of the 80s. Neon. Tight-rolled jeans. (Come on, admit it, you were once rad like that too.) Tang. Remember Tang? And Pringles. And Cheez Whiz. And L’eggo my Eggo. That was packaged-food heaven, and we grew up eating a lot of it. It was only in adulthood that we started to shift our eating and recognize real food’s profound connection to health, and it wasn’t until we had our own little plot of earth to dig in that we began to learn to grow our food. So, we thought, what would happen if we gave kids a short-cut, and they were raised on healthy, whole foods, and better yet, learned to grow and prepare those foods too? Would they grow into good eaters and develop skills that would last a lifetime?
We think so. Common Threads thinks so. We’re all betting that connecting our kids to where their food comes from, and building their skills for growing and cooking it, not only creates healthier kids, but makes for a more self-reliant, resilient future. Common Threads Farm helps us get there, and all we have to do is tell our kids the truth about food and let them get their hands dirty.
One of the things we take the most pride in here at Pizza’zza is being a part of the food community. As the cook and kitchen, we like to think of ourselves as the halfway point between farm and table. In order to do that, we need farmers, and we need eaters. And, as it turns out, you eaters need cooks in kitchens (at least when you’ve stepped out of your own), and farmers need cooks in kitchens to create a viable market for their products. All of us are connected in that way, and we like it like that. In fact, we like it so much, we work to build more and more of these relationships with farmers and eaters. We have lots of these relationships already, but there is always room for one more at the table.
Enter Osprey Hill Farm and Osprey Hill Butchery.
As a family, we have purchased delicious pasture-raised chicken and turkey through Osprey Hill's CSA for years. While most of Pizza'zza's meats are sourced locally from farms such as Skagit River Ranch, Sage and Sky Farm, and Matheson Farm, chicken has always been a bit of a thorn in our side. You see, local chicken is challenging for restaurants unless it’s served whole. The higher cost of the chicken itself as well as the higher labor costs associated with separating the chicken made it economically impossible for us. (It would be difficult to serve you food and fulfill our greater mission if we couldn’t stay in business, right?) And we’ve tried to put a whole roasted chicken a-top a pie before, but you see, it didn’t turn out so well. Ah hem.
Until the glorious day that Anna at Osprey Hill Farm announced that they have ground chicken available. Hallelujah. Finally a way to get local chicken on our menu. After testing a few recipes, Chef Will, has come up with a fine tribute to the pasture-raised goodness that Geoff and Anna specialize in at Osprey Hill Farm. We think you’ll agree (and hopefully tell your friends and fellow eaters).
Give it a try on two of our signature pizzas: the Meatzza’zza (pepperoni, Osprey Hill Farm chicken sausage, ham, roasted garlic, spicy pizza sauce, and fresh basil), and the BBQ Chicken (organic roasted chicken, Osprey Hill Farm chicken sausage, carmelized onions, cheddar & Pizza’zza’s signature BBQ sauce). Or get creative and try it as a create-your-own meat topping. Then, tell us (and Geoff and Anna) what you think.
So, there you have it, boys and girls. Local farms. Local restaurants. Local eaters. Another successful link made in our food system. Another farmer pulls up a chair to our collective table to break bread (or a wish bone) together.