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Alicia Wagner: Fowl and Fodder’s Not So Silent Partner

If there is one thing we should get out of the way upfront, it’s that I live for causes.

If every single person would champion just one thing or person they were super passionate about, what kind of world would we live in? A better one.

I wish I could say that I’ve had a dream of opening a restaurant since I was ten and that this whole plan to invest in a restaurant had been on my radar for a long time. But that wouldn’t be true. What I do care about is building this community, and investing in Toledo, its people and its local businesses. Whether it’s time, energy or money, I have chosen to make Toledo one of the causes that I champion.

That’s what led me to starting my own life and business coaching firm in 2012, Heels Coaching and Consulting, in an effort to help even more emerging female talent understand their value and worth in the corporate sector. I was happily doing that for two years when I was approached to interview for the new Women in Leadership course being offered at St. Ursula Academy.

That was the domino that started me on the path towards Fowl and Fodder. I needed a place near Central Avenue where I could go to in-between teaching, grading, and seeing my coaching clients. The criteria for this spot? It needed to have clean and healthy food. That’s all I wanted. Clean and healthy. But as most of us know, there were ZERO healthy establishments offering a full menu with clean options. Some progress has been made in town since, but at the time, Fowl and Fodder was the only game in town.

So, why did I need a healthy and clean restaurant anyways? When I was preggo with my first kiddo, I thought I was being healthy. You know, eating fruits and veggies so I didn’t feel super guilty about downing the pint of chocolate ice cream I was craving every other day... But what I didn’t know, what I wasn’t educated on at that time, was the scary realities surrounding GMO’s, antibiotics, dyes, hormones and preservatives. Here I was trying to eat healthy, but I wasn’t eating clean.

When my first child was born she had colic, a dairy allergy, and skin allergies. In the process of becoming Mrs. WebMD and doing crazy amounts of research, I discovered that many of these issues could be tied to the toxins present in our food. Then I started asking, “How do I get this stuff out of my food? And where can I go in town to do that?” A lot of grocery stores didn’t even carry organic produce at the time, and most restaurants barely had a gluten free option let alone concerns about GMO’s.

When I accepted the teaching position at St. Ursula Academy, I was now pregnant with my second child. I was resolved to NOT make the same mistakes I did with my first. I had the clean food at home part figured out, but what about the going out to eat part? Would I have to give that all up for 9 months just to make sure that my baby and I were safe?

Then I remembered a Kickstarter campaign I contributed to about a year prior. And I started digging into the story behind it some more. This local chef, Scott Bowman, wanted to bring better, local food into our community. Obviously, after all I dealt with my first child, I knew I wanted to help this restaurant open its doors. And here I was a year later actually visiting it for the first time.

Let me just say, it was love at first bite. Stick a fork in me, I was done. I was at Fowl and Fodder almost every single day while I was teaching that nine-week course. I got to know Scott. I got to know the staff. I got to know the food. I got to know the causes he was championing. I got to know his vision. I got to know everything about who he was and what he wanted to accomplish. And I loved it all.

So, how exactly did this next phase of the partnership unfold? Over a year ago, I was at a different eating establishment that was working to label itself “local.” I started asking questions about where their food came from. And the truth came out. Everything included chemicals and additives, and because it was all made “in-house”, it was deemed scratch and yummy. She saw the disappoint on my face, “You have to know when you go out to eat, that it’s not going to be clean. If you want to eat clean, eat at home.”

After I grabbed my coffee, I went back out to my car and I just sat there. Staring. Thinking. Confused. Angry. Motivated. And most importantly, inspired.

All I could see were the faces of my two kids. Was this how it was going to be for the next generation? Here was another human being telling me that safer, cleaner food was not an option outside of my home. She made that decision for me. That felt wrong. It felt like a challenge. It felt like she was now making decisions for my kids and our community and for me and I had enough of that in my life. I thought to myself, “What if it WAS possible to eat clean in a restaurant more often in Toledo?”

Incredibly, less than a week later, I got a simple text from Scott: “Alicia, Let’s get together. I want to explore opening up a second location and I need your help.” FINALLY, I thought, thank you Jesus. It is possible. We need another Fowl and Fodder!

If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be partnering with the ridiculously amazing Scott Bowman and his wife, Alexis, on the release of their new masterpiece, Fowl and Fodder Downtown, I would have told you that you were crazy. And all I can say is that it’s coming together brilliantly. It’s really happening.

Here you have two souls who are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to personality, skill set and work experience. However, it’s working because of that diversity and the one underlying thing we both have in common: Passion. For the vision towards partnering with our community in an effort to bring cleaner, delicious food options to a downtown that was made for unity. Unity of ideas, people, business, friendship, and collaboration.

My lesson from every step of this crazy journey?

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

By getting uncomfortable and trying new things we can transform our community. Supporting people and causes that don’t traditionally fit into our neat, little box helps us learn, not just about people, but about ourselves. And reaching out to our neighbors to extend a helping hand in a venture not only helps him (or her), but can change an entire community.

That’s how we’ll continue to get “you’ll do better in Toledo” off of a sign and into action. All of us have to find and do our part to make this community better. One cause at a time.

That’s why we are so grateful to the loyal supporters of Fowl and Fodder. A million thank you’s to the Fowl and Fodder tribe out there, you are what makes this journey so incredible. Scott and I look forward to learning, growing and serving you over the months and years ahead. We are committed to bringing you real food, from real farms, to real people. People who know the difference. People who care about our vision. People just like you. Thank you for doing your part to support local by supporting Fowl and Fodder.