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Published October 17, 2011, 05:25 AM

NDFU-related restaurant group sets franchise

FARGO, N.D. — “Potomac's Founding Farmers,” a restaurant being opened Nov. 8 near Washington, is the first offshoot from restaurants associated with Agraria Corp., whose principle investor is the North Dakota Farmer Union.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — “Potomac's Founding Farmers,” a restaurant being opened Nov. 8 near Washington, is the first offshoot from restaurants associated with Agraria Corp., whose principle investor is the North Dakota Farmer Union.

The new restaurant is in Potomac, Md. It bills itself as “Washington’s greenest restaurant.” It is located in the Park Potomac development and is associated with Farmers Restaurant Group, which includes the NDFU and several other “farmer-centric” organizations. The new location is just off Interstate 270 on Montrose Road, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Washington.

NDFU will get a franchise fee and will receive equity when it starts paying its investors, says NDFU Vice President Elwood “Woody” Barth of Solen, N.D.

NDFU has financed two earlier restaurant deals through its Farmers Union Service Association — a wholly owned subsidiary — which gets its money from insurance and other investments. NDFU is principle owner of Founding Fathers D.C., which is on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House in downtown Washington.

Dan Simons of Montgomery County, Md., is a co-owner and is managing partner of Founding Farmers D.C. and is the franchisee of the Potomac restaurant. His company is called Vucurevich/Simons Advisory Group.

The new restaurant offers “classic, heartland-inspired dishes” with breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service. The menu is developed by FRG culinary team, including corporate chef Joe Goetze, executive chef Rob Ross and pastry chef Courtney Goldian. The menu will include numerous custom-made meat offerings as well as seasonal menu changes from products grown or processed in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

The new restaurant will offer an “afternoon social” section from 2 to 5 p.m. weekdays, “inspired by traditional afternoon tea and the midafternoon break for farmhands working in the fields.” These items include tea sandwiches, scones, organic tea blends, champagne punch, cookies and deserts.

City setting, farm style

The new restaurant is promoted as echoing the Washington restaurant’s space. It was designed by CORE architecture + design and will include “silo-styled booths” and farm-themed wall coverings. It will be 8,100 square feet, two stories and seats 241 guests in a bar area that is “a contemporary, minimalist greenhouse/chicken coop-styled framework.” In spring, the restaurant will add a patio. It is “established on a platform of farm-inspired American true food and drink” and is dedicated to “sourcing regionally, and seasonally whenever possible.”

The Farmers Restaurant Group includes the Founding Farmers restaurant, which opened in 2008 and has been profitable its opening, Barth says. NDFU is the majority owner in the FRG. Simons’ group is a consultant to FRG.

Agraria, begun six years ago, changed its name to Farmers and Fishers. It struggled for profitability in its early going but began to be profitable a month before it was closed in mid-April because of flooding, Barth says. He says there are discussions with landlords in the harbor area about whether it will reopen.

Barth says future franchises are possible, but this is the only one.

“We’re looking at a go-slow approach,” he says.

Information: WeAreFoundingFarmers.com" and @FoundingFarmers on Twitter.

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