Alquimico is one of those special bars that is beloved by industry around the world, even by those who haven’t yet experienced it IRL. Led by the gregarious owner, Jean Trinh, the bar has become one of the most heartwarming stories of a pivot in this time of COVID-19 shutdowns. In the wake of citywide closures of bars and restaurants on March 13, 2020, Trinh lead his team #FromTheBarToTheFarm
This project has roots from 2018, when the bar joined a collective working to facilitate the flow of organic resources directly from locals instead of through intermediaries to support the local economy and guarantee the freshest ingredients to serve at Alquicmico. By 2019, Trinh recognized the need for ingredient sourcing for such a high-volume bar was too great for the collective alone and acquired a farm of around 10 hectares (approx 25 acres) in one of the most fertile regions of Colombia: the coffee axis. The initial idea of the farm project was simple, in the middle and long-term support a significant percentage of the production of necessary fruits, plants, vegetables and spices for the operation of the bar, without abandoning the solidarity with the existing local farm collective project.
However, the plans and trajectory for the project completely changed with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 13, 2020, the city of Cartagena forced the closure of all bars for the safety of the people and the Alquimico team quickly realized that the closures would likely last several months. It was then that the farm project was completely reimagining with a new purpose.
After a month of meetings, calls, emails and petitioning, Trinh and his team secured approval from the Colombian government to safely move their staff from Cartagena to the farm located in the municipality of Filandia more than 800 km and 20 hours on a road trip. On May 15, a group of 49 staff members began the journey to the farm, where they would enter a training process in different agricultural practices unlike any that has ever been created in the industry.
The bar team was divided into 2 groups – construction and agriculture. The construction team actually built the team’s home while learning machinery, electricity, cement work, plumbing and carpentry with guadua – a local native wood. They also built a production R&D center, where the crops are harnessed at the maximum point of freshness for the production of syrups, distillations, tinctures, infusions and other processes that will eventually be used in Alquimico and other facilities in Cartagena.
The other team is involved in all of the agricultural aspects of the program including apiary for the production of organic honey, construction of greenhouses in Guadua, a reforestation project with more than 1200 trees natives, in addition to planting around 1000 citrus trees that will serve to demand them in the bar, preparation of organic fertilizers, an adaptation of land for the creation of ecological trails, planting of vegetables, aromatic herbs, special coffees of the highest quality, a seed bank that guarantees the perpetuity of native species and which in turn serve neighboring farms.
Keeping sustainability in mind, the goal is to generate over 90% of the energy needed from ecological sources, with the installation of a network of solar panels that provide electricity to the farm’s facilities and the installation of a sugar mill in order to take advantage of sugarcane crops and all derivatives of the cane plant. Additionally, they are working on the installation of an irrigation system to take advantage of the local water sources close to the farm, as well as rainwater, to provide water for the animals, the production area and the houses within the facilities.
As if this isn’t enough of an incredible story of dedication, the team has all committed to their own personal development while adapting to the dynamics of agriculture. Exploring a level of community and teamwork that many are not able to experience. The whole team starts their workday at 6am, which is a massive life change for bartenders used to leaving work at that time. While at the farm, their diets are vegetarian and 100% organic to provide a deeper perspective and connection with people who dedicate their lives to the land. And similar to camp or self-exploration retreats, outside of work, the activities surround collective thinking combined with sports and leisure activities aimed at creating a positive mental and physical impact on the Alquimico team.
We will be following along with our Alquimico family because we are OBSESSED with the #FromTheBarToTheFarm and are waiting for the world to safely open up because they are hoping to offer opportunities for the industry to visit the farm month by month, as well as an open space for learning and recreation staff members, their families and friends.
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