breeds which Vice
described as animals who "never came off the cow version of the paleo diet" — at their Leaping Waters Farm
in Alleghany Springs, Va. for over a decade. No big deal. They've just made a breed once used by druids for pagan sacrifices into one of the hottest grass-fed beef options. Now they're packing up some of their sacred cows and opening a butcher shop and restaurant, Herd Provisions, on Grove Street next fall.
"Essentially, the farms been running for almost 12 years," says Alec. "We sell mostly to restaurants in D.C. like Masseria, Bourbon Steak, The Source, and Red Apron Burger Bar that uses Leaping Waters' grass-fed beef exclusively in its burgers. But being a beef darling in the D.C. food world doesn't always mean a plush pocketbook and the Bradford's new they needed to somehow scale the business. Enter: Charleston.
The Bradford's had been looking for a place to showcase their sustainable farming practices beyond rural Virginia for a few years. Nashville and Charleston were the top contenders, but Sarah's love for the city won out. When she got a job at MUSC (she's a physician), their decision was made. Sarah moved down in 2015 and Alec and their four kids joined her this year.
"I homeschooled the kids for 2016 and worked on the farm and hired on a girl who has a degree in sustainable ag to run the place," says Alec. He also has a 26-year-old farmhand he's trained since he was 14 who manages the animal husbandry while the couple works to open the doors of their new HERD Provisions storefront that will open where the former Ark Lounge bar used to site.
"By having a butcher shop inside the restaurant, we'll process the meat a little more cheaply. It'll still be USDA stamped, humanely raised and slaughtered, now we'll be able to compete with other shops," says Alec. "After working with some of the restaurant people so long, we thought we'd like to try it ourselves."
As Vice reported, "He hopes his new restaurant game plan will avoid the raw deal he gets at the slaughterhouse and give his business a firmer footing. His Ancient White Park cows will be humanely slaughtered and refrigerated at a small USDA-approved facility for $75 each. The whole beef will be sent to the restaurant, where it will be taken apart in-house — larger cuts will be offered at a meat counter, and the ground beef will go into burgers for what Bradford envisions as a truly locavore experience at a Five Guys price. "You can get a cheeseburger, a glass of wine, and some hand-cut fries for thirteen bucks."
Herd Provisions will have a butcher case upfront for buying Leaping Waters Farm meat directly as well as seating for dining in. "We'll serve sandwiches from our animals — burgers, Philly steaks, pork sandwiches, some chicken, and source some shrimp from local boats. We'll definitely get all of our greens and veggies from local farms," says Alec.
In the evening the 80-seat, fast/casual restaurant will switch to a full service space that will also serve beer and wine. "We're trying to do a pig roast once a week and lamb roast," Alec adds.
But, like all restaurant projects in the works in Charleston, getting from construction to dinner service can take a long time. Right now the Bradfords are just trying to get through the hoops of city approvals. They optimistically hope to be open next fall. But many Wagener Terrace neighbors have already gotten a taste of Leaping Waters Farm's meat.
"We did the first CSA round was last fall," says Alec, "and it went really well." For $500 people bought into a 10 delivery, 20-week CSA that included cuts of pork, beef, turkey, chicken, and eggs. "Basically it comes out to about $50 a bag with 8-10 pounds of meat every other week," Alec says. "We do it that way so we don't have to buy another freezer."
Look for Herd Provisions to open late 2017. For more information on the CSA, click here
Alec Bradford and his wife Sarah have been farming Ancient White Park cattle — one of the rarest