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From farm to pizza: Lupi's owner sources meat, produce and flowers from her Georgia farm
CLOUDLAND, Ga. — Where does Lupi's Pizza Pies get its ground beef, sausage and green peppers?
Not exactly the Garden of Eden — but close.
That's what Flying Turtle Farm looked like Thursday morning.
It's a 65-acre property on Yankee Road atop Lookout Mountain in rural Dade County where Dorris Shober, the owner of Lupi's Pizza, and her husband, John Shober, a land surveyor, for the past three years have raised pigs, cattle, egg-laying hens and — during the growing season — organically-grown zucchinis, cucumbers, basil, green peppers, three different varieties of tomatoes and almost 50 different kinds of flowers used in bouquets.
To learn more about Lupi’s and Flying Turtle Farm, visit Lupi.com For regular updates, follow Lupi’s on Facebook and Instagram.
That bounty winds up on the tables of Lupi's five locations in the greater Chattanooga area.
So not only does Lupi's offer "farm-to-table" fare — it owns the farm.
"People do not know that we do this, and this is our third year," Shober said.
Advantages of locally produced food cited by Lupi's include better taste, quality and freshness.
And it's easier on the environment, Shober said. This year, Flying Turtle Farm delivered more than 2,000 pounds of vegetables, over 3,000 pounds of beef and sausage and 140 bouquets of flowers to Lupi's, she said.
"We're not shipping food all the way from Central America," Shober said.
The farm's meat, produce and flowers get delivered by pickup truck to Chattanooga on Mondays and Fridays. On its trip back to the farm, the pickup truck hauls away pre-consumer kitchen food waste, stale bread and the like that's fed to the farm's pigs.
Lupi's still relies on other area farms to fill the gaps and put as much local food as possible in the restaurants. Partners include Sequatchie Cove Farm for meat, Signal Mountain Farm for tomatoes and Circle S Farm for basil. The goal is to use local ingredients whenever possible.
Being a farmer is a lifelong dream for Shober, who launched the first Lupi's with her ex-husband in downtown Chattanooga in 1996. The couple, who both grew up in Chattanooga and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, were fans of Fellini's Pizza in Atlanta. They lived there while her ex-husband went to graduate school.
When the couple returned to Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium had just opened. But there wasn't much dining downtown, Shober said, so they decided to launch Lupi's and figured out the recipes at home.
"We recognized a need in town. There was no place to get a slice of pizza and a beer," said Shober, whose original career was as a registered nurse.
The downtown Lupi's and a second restaurant in Hixson were successful right off the bat, Shober said.
When the couple, who have a now-grown son and daughter, divorced six years after founding Lupi's, Shober's ex-husband didn't want the restaurant, she said. So she kept the business and has since added three more locations: East Brainerd, Cleveland and Ooltewah.
Dorris Shober met her current husband because their sons were best friends. They married 12 years ago. John Shober already owned the 65 acres in Cloudland, but he wasn't doing much farming, then, because he was raising his two young sons alone since his wife had died.
Dorris Shober now spends most of her time at the farm and usually only comes to Chattanooga on Mondays and Tuesdays.
"I've always wanted to live on a farm my entire life," Shober said. "I'm here all the time now, it's fabulous."
Surrounded by woods, the farm has a swimming pond, a handful of farm dogs and spectacular nighttime views of the Milky Way when there's a new moon.
Shober used to work long hours at Lupi's, but three years ago passed most of that responsibility to employee Matt Douglass.
Another longtime employee, Tom Maynard, manages Flying Turtle Farm.
"It was our dream to grow and supply food for Lupi's, and now years later to be providing organic meat and produce for all five of our locations is really full circle for us," said Maynard, who's worked 19 years at Lupi's.
Lupi's employees who are interested can work on the farm, which is the site of an annual company-wide overnight campout complete with a hayride.
Shober and Maynard have taught themselves how to run Flying Turtle Farm, which is a separate business from Lupi's. They tend sick animals, move the cattle fencing around to fresh pasture and experiment with different breeds, such as the farm's Australorp hens, a breed that has broken world records because of its prodigious egg laying.
Shober's only previous farming experience was visiting her friend's grandparents' house as a girl.
"I didn't have restaurant experience, either," Shober said. "That worked out, too."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetfor business or 423-757-6651.