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Farmers Bet 'Green' Eatery Will Catch On

WASHINGTON - North Dakota farmers have spent $6 million to open a pair of Washington restaurants, one just blocks from the White House, to showcase food from family farms. The newer eatery aims to be "Washington's greenest restaurant."

The new Founding Farmers' restaurant General Manager Ralph De Rose poses for a photo at Founding Farmers' restaurant in Washington on Friday, Sept. 26, 2008. North Dakota farmers opened Founding Farmers, just blocks from the White House, to showcase food from family farms. The eatery aims to be "Washington's greenest restaurant." "We believe we are doing the right thing, doing it the right way, and the profit will come," says Ralph DeRose, general manager of Founding Farmers, a modern space with an environmentally friendly design.

The North Dakota Farmers Union, which has 42,000 members, has made the investment despite the economic downturn, high food prices and risks inherent in running a restaurant. With Founding Farmers, which opened this month, the group is betting on the success of a growing trend in the business: food straight from the farm, in a place with a green focus.

The first restaurant, Agraria, was built in a massive, darker space in the city's Georgetown neighborhood. While popular with tourists, it has struggled to catch on with people in the city since opening in 2006.

DeRose says the management team is trying to get it right this second time. Unlike Agraria, Founding Farmers was built to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a third-party certification for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.

"To do farm-to-table the way you envision it, you need to do it like this," said DeRose, sitting at a sunny table in the restaurant less than a week after its opening.

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