Fig + Farro hosts climate change salon and supper club

Michelle Courtright, owner of the Uptown vegetarian restaurant Fig + Farro, speaks to attendees of a dinner and climate salon event at the restaurant on Nov. 12.

Michelle Courtright said she wants to build community around the issue of climate change.

She is doing so in part through a supper-club series at her new vegetarian restaurant, Fig + Farro.

Courtright is hosting monthly events featuring guest speakers and plant-based, prix-fixe dinners at her Uptown restaurant, which opened this past January. She’s held two events so far and is planning to hold a third from 6 p.m.–8:15 p.m. Dec. 3.

“I feel like this is the best way to get people together and create a community around climate change,” Courtright said of the series, called the Climate Series Salon + Supper Club. “It’s a way for people to get engaged in an issue that’s an existential issue.”

Michelle Courtright, owner of Fig + Farro, speaks with Craig Johnson at the Nov. 12 event.
Michelle Courtright, owner of Fig + Farro, speaks with Craig Johnson at the Nov. 12 event.

Courtright opened Fig + Farro after spending years in marketing and the creative world. She said she had always wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant, noting research showing the large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the livestock industry.

According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, emissions from livestock represent an estimated 14.5 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and cattle-milk production account for more than 60 percent of those emissions, according to the report.

Ben Lilliston of the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy said at the Nov. 12 supper club that the industrial meat system is “far and away” the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases within the food system.

Lilliston, the organization’s director of rural strategies and climate change, said the IATP draws a distinction between industrial and sustainable livestock production. He added that research shows sustainable production can benefit the environment if done right and also said that buying locally can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The good news is that the systems that are good for emissions are also generally systems that allow farmers to be more adaptive to changes in climate,” he said.

About two dozen people attended Fig + Farro's climate salon event on Nov. 12.
About two dozen people attended Fig + Farro’s climate salon event on Nov. 12.

Courtright noted how people often think about “driving Priuses and turning off the lights at home” when they think of climate change. But she said the fastest and easiest way for people to make an impact in climate change is to cut meat from their diets.

“If Americans ate one meal less of meat per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the roads each year,” she said.

About two dozen people attended the Climate Series Salon + Supper Club event on Nov. 12, including Matthew and Kelsey Bowers of Hopkins. Kelsey Bowers said Fig + Farro sent them an email about the event, adding that they were hoping to meet like-minded people by attending. She said she and Matthew are huge advocates of using veganism as a way to reduce climate change.

A few seats down sat Eden Prairie High School senior Maren Frost, who said it’s cool to find a vegetarian restaurant. Nearby, Lauren Perez, marketing lead for Puris, a plant-based protein company, said she learned that it’s possible to build a sustainable food future to scale.

Madilyn Lavan, a senior at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, said she came to the event because of a teacher who told her about it in class. She said she feels lost when it comes to climate change, adding that she finds it cool that the restaurant has food and climate change go hand in hand.

Philip Grazulis, lead server at Fig + Farro, was on hand as the attendees ate dinner. Grazulis said he sought out the restaurant after switching to a plant-based diet, adding that he likes that he’s working for a cause.

“Every single person who comes in here has a different story,” he said.

Fig + Farro’s next Climate Series Salon + Supper Club will feature Eric Dayton, co-founder and CEO of the clothing company Askov Finlayson. That event is $20 ($15 for students) and is open to the public. Learn more at bit.ly/2PvxZ6d or call 208-0609 to reserve a spot. Reservations can also be made here.