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As consumers, we constantly hear about keeping it local and why it’s important, but what does that really mean? While it’s invaluable to support our small, independent San Antonio businesses, there’s a deeper ecosystem under the surface that is absolutely vital in keeping our local economy thriving.

I’ve structured my restaurant, Pharm Table, in a way that allows guests to consistently keep their dollars here, supporting a circular economy. We do this by way of our sourcing and the strategic partners we hire. As a business owner who wants to elevate and sustain fellow local businesses, it’s vital to me that I continue to be intentional with how we spend our dollars. That could mean procuring seasonal vegetables, herbs, and flowers from Garcia Street Urban Farm, or heirloom, non-GMO corn tortillas from Margarita’s Tortilla Factory, or working with other local artisans. This reminds me of the term coined by Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey — conscious capitalism — a more holistic approach to purchasing while considering the impact on the planet and the local landscape. By patronizing Pharm Table, guests support a range of other businesses, all branches of a large, beautiful tree that ties eating well to our local economy.

When I created Pharm Table, my vision was to positively affect how people eat, and by doing this, bring together a harmonious mix of Ayurvedic principles, global cultures, flavors, commitment, community engagement, and health. Mindfulness is at the heart of it, not only in how we cook, but with whom we spend our dollars. The mission at Pharm Table has always been to heal both people and the planet through food — to be a part of the solution, not the problem. In the restaurant industry we often talk about food and ingredients, but often overlooked is the impact small businesses have on the local economy as an ecosystem.

At the end of the day, we’re a small business and we make important choices on a daily basis where to spend our dollars. This has never been more important than the past year and a half. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of international and interstate commerce and supply chains were disrupted, creating even more challenges for business owners large and small. These challenges continue amid uncertainty. The reality is we’re not out of the woods yet. We have no idea what the new COVID landscape is going to look like with new variants. Add to that the fact that the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t see eye to eye on best practices or preventative measures.

I say this as a caution, but also an inspiration to act. As passionate advocates of our local businesses, we can’t become complacent. I’m proposing we become more active than ever, moving forward in a way that gets us really thinking about where we spend our dollars and how each dollar we spend locally is impacting the local economy. Consciously seeking and supporting local vendors is investing in life insurance for our community. So when someone makes the decision to spend their dollars with us, it is meaningful beyond supporting our team and mission.

Another important component of our growing local economy is ensuring we continue to meaningfully impact the support system for community service organizations. Throughout our five years in business, and especially over the last year and a half, we have supplied food through donations and partnerships with the San Antonio Food Bank, Corazon Ministries, and University Health. As a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, we have a social responsibility to use our food and culture as a driver for sustainability and to tackle food insecurity. We need to continue working together to help first responders and those with food insecurity.

That’s the beauty of truly small local businesses; they are the backbone of the economy and the American dream. From little mom-and-pop businesses that started in a garage and expanded to multiple locations, to immigrants who bring their dreams and put ideas into practice, there are multitudes of diverse businesses with innovative and passionate owners and makers behind them. When dining at Pharm Table, you’re supporting a thoughtful team of cooks, bartenders, and service staff. Beyond that, there are lots of other small, local businesses that make up the Pharm Table ecosystem and which your patronage of the restaurant supports. Here are some of the small businesses we support:

  • Margarita’s Tortilla Factory
  • Happy Gut Foods
  • Element Kombucha
  • Sesa Pure
  • Brown Coffee Company
  • Richard’s Rainwater
  • Compost Queens
  • Garcia Street Urban Farm
  • Southwest Seasonals
  • Farm to Table
  • 91 Farms
  • Wholesome Meats
  • Cook’s Venture Chicken
  • Vidal Farms
  • Bexar Kitchens
  • Minima Wood Designs
  • Southern Spice
  • Specialty local markets Ali Baba and La Michoacana
  • Künstler Brewing, Dorćol Distilling & Brewing Company, and other independent national and international spirits producers
  • Rikkianne VanKirk, artist
  • Stone Standard
  • Lucio Tailoring
  • Jessica Giesey Photography
  • Ernesto Ibanez, artist
  • Shades of Green

Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson is the founder and chef of Pharm Table restaurant in San Antonio.