Chad Forsberg has been growing food for the best restaurants in the Twin Cities for almost 20 years.
His client list is a who’s who of the finest plates money can buy around here. But now, he’s ready to get into the restaurant world on his own. It’s an ambitious plan. He’ll grow all the grain for the beer, raise the animals for the braises and the sausage, grow the produce for the pizza, everything.
It's ambitious, but he’s convinced he can do it. One of his favorite stories to tell is the fact that he was one of the first (if not the first) farmers to bring heirloom tomatoes into local restaurant kitchens all those many years ago: heavy and gnarled Chocolate Stripes striated with brown, wee little Coyote Tomatoes sweet and sunshine yellow as Skittles.
But, he says, certain chefs would shout him out of the kitchen, admonishing him to come back when he had some “round, red tomatoes.” Growing Heirlooms way back then was ambitious too, but we know what happened there.
Being a good steward of the land is of the utmost importance to Forsberg, and he says Footjoy Brewfarm will be the culmination of his life’s work.
Footjoy will be the first authentic farmhouse brewery with a taproom and restaurant in the region. The farm seeks to grow historical barley from around the world, with some strains hundreds of years old, predating modern breeding techniques.
”Most people are unaware of how much modern grains have been tampered with, and how limited the options are for those who seek to grow ancient grains.” Forsberg says most of what is available for farmers to grow are the hybridized varieties developed for a mass market food system. "They are not developed for flavor or nutrition, nor for the ability to reliably produce in adverse conditions with less inputs or chemicals."
How will this affect the flavor of Footjoy's beer? That remains to be seen, but Forsberg suspects that it will result in something quite special.
“The malt from these unique barleys will brew a beer that no maltster or brewery can compare to. The interesting durums from Portugal, China, or the former Czech Republic will carry a flavor and history not found in the pasta and noodles elsewhere.”
Not a beer drinker? He says that a loaf of bread from those same grains will be reminiscent of those from Italy or France 200 years ago.
As for the food, Forsberg envisions pizza ovens for starters (hooray for more pizza farms), but beyond that, the possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of the chefs. Forsberg hopes to host our cities’ finest on the farm whenever they wish to come. Meanwhile, the brewfarm will have a full-time chef, yet to be hired.
Forsberg's farm will continue to push boundaries with its produce as well, including unusual and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. There are Alpine Yellow Strawberries, tiny little berries the size of your baby fingernail that flood your mind with neon strawberry flavor; Honeyberries, an oblong shrub fruit that some describe as tasting like red wine; and cuke nuts, tiny little cucumbers the size of almonds that you can pop just as easily and happily as beer nuts.
His current farm in Sparta, Wisconsin (near LaCrosse) will remain in operation simultaneously with the Brewfarm, assisting as an adjunct farm as things get underway.
Forsberg has launched a Kickstarter campaign for $80,000, which will act as seed money to secure the loans and economic development money that will allow him to purchase the land. He has some ideas for where he would like the farm to be situated, but they are not yet etched in stone. Ideally, he says, it will be an hour or less drive from the Twin Cities.
“It’s all about getting people closer to the food,” he says.
Watch this entertaining campaign video starring Forsberg, his infamous laugh, and some of the most illustrious chefs in town. Then contribute to the campaign by clicking here.
Contribution rewards include gardening classes on the farm taught by Forsberg, also known as "Hippie Chad," a wedding on the brew farm, and a "French Country Picnic" by the former La Belle Vie team. How cool is that?