In this day in age, its rare that you come across people who are inspired by the freedom of exploring what is creatively possible, versus how effectively one can achieve the end-goal of a bottom line. And in Charleston, such rare people come in the form of Tara Derr Webb and her collaborators of her latest endeavor, the ever evolving and roving food + retail installation aptly titled The FARMBAR.
Tara was one of the first people I'd met in Charleston who made me feel like my new city would be a place where I could find a few kindred spirits. With her farm-to-table philosophy, she is fast becoming one of the leading tastemakers in changing the landscape of food and how we produce, and therefore shop for and consume it. My first encounter with the FARMBAR was on one cold, rainy January morning. When I pulled up to the location that was comprised of a Spartan trailer and a rectangular shipping container situated on the Upper Peninsula section of Meeting Street, I wasn't sure what I would find. Yet despite being housed in the (beautifully) refurbished open container with limited heat sources, what awaited was the warm embrace of people doing what they really love. Surrounded by a carefully curated selection of artisan products and handcrafted goods, Tara and her crew were serving artfully brewed Four Barrel Coffee from San Francisco and a selection of pastries (schnecken sticky buns and bacon+cheddar scones, to be exact) from local partners Brown's Court Bakery. On other days, they've been known to do full-on lunch service along with their breakfast goods, with satisfying items like stoner pork burgers (that I simply can't wait to try), in addition to partnering with local chefs and restauranteurs to host spirited dinners around the communal tables outside.
Always looking for ways to progress and change up the game, next month the FARMBAR team will launch a permanent installation site at its homebase, Tara and her husband Leighton's farm northeast of Charleston in Awendaw, South Carolina, while continuing to offer their regular installation on Tuesdays & Fridays at 1600 Meeting Street.
Since my initial visit to the FARMBAR on that chilly day in January, I've returned a handful (but not nearly enough) times to see what they're up to (check out their lively Facebook and Twitter pages for up to the minute news and happenings), and I always leave with a full belly and feeling newly inspired. On one particular occasion I had my fiancé Frank with me, who made the fateful decision of ordering cornbread with bacon jam. Thats right, I said bacon jam. You might see where I'm going with this. Now, while my sensible man enjoys a great meal just like the rest of us, he is not what I would consider to be a food fanatic, like myself. So when he stood up with forceful purpose after consuming his plate and announced that he was going to buy a jar of said jam (which is personally crafted and jarred by one of the the FARMBAR collaborators herself), I couldn't have been more in love with him. And for those not involved in the personal details of our relationship, you should take that as the highest endorsement of a place from a man who can be impossibly difficult to impress.
So my shetrusters, I present to you the mastermind and ringleader behind it all with a brief shetrusts Q+A to find out more about what makes Tara Tara, her vision for the FARMBAR, what she's inspired by lately, and what fashion items she trusts to keep her ticking.
- Katherine Hanson | founder, shetrusts.com
A shetrusts Q + A with Tara Derr Webb of the FARMBAR
A few basics about yourself: where are you from originally and where did you grow up? What is your background prior to FARMBAR?
"I grew up in Reston, Virginia when it was a very small creative town. It has since become a corridor to Washington, D.C., and hardly recognizable to me now! I still go home to Virginia to fill the well. Driving the Blue Ridge Mountains + rolling country roads are beautiful and healing.
"I’ve spent the last 28 years living in a number of urban environments from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London to our final home in Awendaw, South Carolina. A magical place to evolve the many creative experiences I’ve had in Food, Fashion, Art and Farming."
What was the initial inspiration for FARMBAR? Have you found that you've had to pivot your original idea in any way to bring it to fruition?
"I was at a gastropub in London called the Lansdowne and I wrote the concept out on a beverage napkin. It was a curation of all that I had done, or was inspired by to that point in my life [a combination of food+fashion experiences and endeavors]. Seven years later, I am still working on it."
You are a part of a group of people in Charleston that I like to call "ex-pats", that have lived larger cosmopolitan and more creatively liberal cities before ultimately deciding to call Charleston home. What was it about this region that made you decide to settle here?
"Warmth of community, and depth of character. I simply love the culture in Charleston. It’s rich and humble in equal measure."
Have you found Charleston to be receptive of the FARMBAR? How has the city's reaction changed as time has gone by?
"We have received tremendous support for the FARMBAR. It’s staggering, to be honest. Our work is rather freestyle and ever-changing, which is not for everyone, but our loyalists and collaborators understand it. They give it a pulse."
What is the significance of the Spartan figure in your logo?
"We have two Spartan trailers that are used for the FARMBAR. [Charleston-based graphic designer] Jay Fletcher did the design and he just nailed it. A modern interpretation of the Vintage Spartan Logo as a farmer. Brilliant."
How do your fun "communal-style" event collaborations come about, like your most recent "Corn y Maiz" dinner?
"I just dream them up in my head, and ask folks to show up. Somehow, miraculously, they do."
What do you look for in a particular designer or crafts person that you carry at the FARMBAR? How often do you "switch it up" and bring new vendors in?
"I look for well-made, thoughtful, earnest work. I don’t think about cost, or trend or what is sellable. I simply gather what I like, what I feel, and share it. And we switch out our makers every three months."
You are the face and the fearless leader of the FARMBAR, but you also have a team of collaborators that you work with to keep it all running. How did you meet, and what made you decide to work together? What is that dynamic like?
"Ridiculously amazing + inspiring collaborators.
"I’ve found in what matters most in establishing a business is building relationships with like-minded people and inviting them into a conversation.
"The collaborators I work with, Lindsey, Sarah Mae and Air (amongst others) aren’t simply executing my specific vision. They all have their own interpretations of what the FARMBAR is, or should be. There is no hierarchy. We are all workers and we are all connected to doing something very meaningful."
Moving forward, what do you foresee in the future for the FARMBAR? How do you see it progressing?
"That’s unclear. It’s really up to the growing number of collaborators involved over time. There is no arrival or end point for me. It’s a continuum."
How do you find that you're able to "balance" everything in your life?
"I tend goats + drink rose every day at 4pm. It’s medicine."
What do you like to do when you have a day to yourself?
"I have not had that since the 90’s! I am looking forward to taking a month off in 2015 and traveling to Antarctica."
What are a few things that you cannot live without?
"A camera + other human beings."
Where is your favorite place to eat and drink in Charleston?
Do you like to cook for yourself and your family? If so, what is your favorite meal to make?
"We cook all the time, non stop. When I cook for myself... I love the hell out of a fried egg sandwich with mayonnaise."
From the curated selection of products that you have at FARMBAR, I can tell you have great and distinctive taste! Who are your favorite designers? Who are your favorite artists?
Right now I am into:
How would you describe your own personal style?
"Part maker / designer + part thrift"
At shetrusts, we’re ultimately interested in sharing with women what fashion products and accessories that other awesomely inspiring women trust as they go about their lives. So, what are the top five fashion items that you trust and have found that you can tirelessly rely on?