“What’s important to me about Jones Valley is that they are educating the next generation. That’s what’s going to change where we are today.”
“If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.” With these words at the top of his fundraising page, Nick Pihakis, co-owner of Jim ‘N Nick’s Community BBQ, committed to raising $10,000 in support of Jones Valley as part of last year’s online campaign. He raised more than $12,000 by the time the campaign was over.
This year, he’s planning to raise $25,000 because, in his words, “I think keeping good food affordable is very, very important.” He believes Jones Valley’s food education programming creates the demand for quality, affordable food and equips the next generation with the knowledge and resources to grow a local food economy in Birmingham.
Nick partners with a farm in Mt. Laurel to purchase some of their produce for Jim ‘N Nick’s and support farm production through the seasons, and he just opened his own slaughterhouse in Eva, Alabama, for locally raised hogs. Jim ‘N Nick’s has shifted in the direction of intentionally supporting local farms and local economies, a unique decision for a restaurant business with more than thirty locations through the Southeast. Nick said that this vision began with conversations about how to merge the cultural and regional richness of barbecue in the South with more sustainable practices that support local economies and empower the average eater to make better choices about their own food.
Part of Nick’s support for Jones Valley’s educational programming is tied to farming as well. He believes that Jones Valley can be not just a model for innovative education but for community-inspired farms, especially for young people.
“I really think that if we can get infrastructure back in place for local farming,” he said, “it makes the product more available to kids. If we’re educating kids—this is what you should be eating, this is where your food’s coming from—and local food is available to them, we all win.”