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Jackie O's Brew Pub Burger at Jackie O's on West Union St. Nov. 18, 2023, in Athens.

Jackie O’s Farm provides sustainable dining

For nearly two decades, Jackie O’s has become synonymous with Athens culture. No matter what form the business takes – a sit-down restaurant or a mecca for beer connoisseurs – each location is a haven of Southeastern Ohio charm and energy. Although each branch is uniquely characterized and differentiated, they are all dedicated to sustainability, which is a core value of Jackie O’s Farm. 

The farm is located seven miles outside uptown Athens, rich with diverse vegetation and sustainable practices. Jackie O’s has owned the 45-acre property since 2010, so it is often referred to as Jackie O’s Farm instead of its official title, Barrel Ridge Farm

“We provide a lot of produce for the uptown restaurants, not quite everything they use … it goes on what we have throughout the year and what they’re interested in,” said Justin Tager, the farm manager. 

Tager has held his position since May 2023 and was a co-manager for approximately three years before independently taking on the responsibilities. 

“Prepping seeds, mixing soil, planting, harvesting, washing, delivery, landscaping, caring for fruit trees, we have a mushroom operation, we do some beekeeping — there’s really quite a lot to it,” Tager said. 

The work Tager does at Jackie O’s Farm helps keep the company sustainable and, by default, increases the quality of the food and the restaurants as a whole. 

“If they were able to get all of the ingredients from us and be totally sustainable from Jackie O’s Farm, then I think that would be the most ideal scenario,” Tager said. 

The executive chef of Jackie O’s, Steven Fellabaum, said he believes working with a local farm creates more efficiency within the culinary operations of the company.  

“It’s a little bit easier because we’re all the same company,” said Fellabaum. “They send me a text of what they have available, I order what I want and it shows up. Pretty much anywhere else, you’re usually waiting on a predestined day and all that kind of stuff, so (the farm) makes it a little quicker and easier.” 

When it comes to putting together a meal, nothing compares to using locally grown and sourced ingredients. Jackie O’s Farm operates greenhouses, raised beds, an orchard and many other facilities that contribute to the menu. 

“With our ramen bowls, over the summer … they grow Asian greens and stuff that we’ve incorporated in that, and they turned out very nice,” said Fellabaum. 

Paula Marsh is the front-of-house manager at Jackie O’s Public House Restaurant and the uptown Brewpub. She has been with Jackie O’s for five years and has noticed how customers tend to react to the ingredients. 

“We do vegetable sides that are all grown at the farm, and those we often get compliments on,“ Marsh said. "I’ve had people that try a vegetable they’ve never eaten before and end up loving it.”

While the food menu at Jackie O’s is an extremely important facet of the operation, the business is a brewery first. Therefore, Jackie O’s Farm also contributes its resources to ensure high-quality brews from the business. 

“We do a lot of specialty crops that are just for beer making, so we’ll do a whole 200-foot bed of beets early in the summer for a beet beer, we do all of our watermelons toward a Berliner beer and we’ve done edible flowers for beer as well,” said Tager. 

No area of Jackie O’s is left untouched by the farm’s sustainability. Locations in Columbus also receive deliveries from the farm, as well as the Jackie O’s Bakery. 

“We have perennial herbs … that they use in their baked goods, like lavender, rosemary, things like that,“ Tager said. "We also give them … produce and they sell that out of the taproom.”

Jackie O’s Farm also contributes supplies to other Athens businesses, such as Avalanche Pizza and Fusion Noodle Company. The farm has donated to the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, a facilitator of a strong small-business community in the area. 

An extra amenity offered by Jackie O’s Farm is a 12-person Airbnb. The property has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and plenty of nature and farmland to explore. 

“It’s all about the ingredients,” Tager said. “The less that it’s transported to get to the restaurant to the table, the better it is.”

This attention to detail not only ensures the restaurant will receive fresh products, but there are also other sustainability perks due to the farm’s proximity. 

“Just having fresh ingredients that have a low carbon impact because they’re delivered from not very far away … it makes me feel better about the environment,” Marsh said.


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