Even on a small, family-owned farm, work begins before daybreak.
Spanning 15 acres, the land is carved by hills and trenches, all dug without equipment or machinery. Rows of color paint the land, courtesy of all types of fruits and vegetables grown throughout the year — reds of peppers and tomatoes, greens of basil and kale, purples of beets and potatoes.
Nearby, a cacophony fills the air. A confusion of guinea fowl chatters, spurred on by the dogs which run and play freely. From their pen, chickens cluck, interrupted by an occasional rooster crow. Pigs squeal as the morning excitement rises.
Fueled by the sights and sounds of their workspace, farmhands tirelessly plant, cultivate and harvest, determined to reap produce of the highest quality. From the farm, the food makes its way to Downtown Bryan, ready to find its way onto a serving plate.
The fruits and vegetables don’t have far to go, however. The farm, though functioning as a miniature, self-sustaining oasis, is actually part of the Brazos Valley community. And it’s all part of the work done by Bryan’s very own Ronin Farm & Restaurant.
Ronin owner and operations manager Amanda Light, Class of 2018, and her husband Brian set out years ago with a dream: “to preserve the gastronomic and cultural traditions of Texas by sharing sustainable foods and genuine experiences with our community,” according to Ronin’s website. The pair started a catering business, then soon converted an old barn into a kitchen to help with food production, and after being approached by a landlord suggesting the Lights serve from a brick-and-mortar establishment, Ronin was born.
“It kind of serendipitously happened. It wasn’t really planned. It just organically grew into what it is today,” Light said. “Two years of planning and 11 months of construction later, we opened, and we’ve been full speed ahead ever since.”
The restaurant gained popularity through its special attention paid to the food selection itself. The menu rotates changes to accommodate for what ingredients are freshest and of the highest quality on any particular day. Ranging from “bar bites” of grilled elotes to “hearty fares” featuring picadillo tacos, the kitchen — led by Brian as executive chef — always serves something for everyone, Light said.
Part of the restaurant’s success comes from its proximity “to the sources,” horticulture senior and Ronin farm operations worker Lilly Bomberg said. With the produce grown on the farm just seven miles away, Ronin’s biggest strength is its involvement in every step of the farm-to-table process, she said.
“Absolutely everything about why I like my job is reflected in the way they cook the food at the restaurant,” Bomberg said. “I like this style of farming because I like that kind of food: high-quality, good for you and good for the planet. It’s definitely really nice to see our produce prepared so beautifully and so deliciously.”
A Ronin bartender of two years, plant and soil science senior EJ De La Garza said the way in which the restaurant stores and prepares food further contributes to the “unique flavors” seen in the restaurant.
“I don’t think people realize how fresh it is,” De La Garza said. “We don’t even have a freezer in the restaurant. That’s really rare for a restaurant nowadays.”
In addition to its commitment to growing, harvesting and serving of food of the highest quality, Ronin also places emphasis on another value close to the Lights’ heart: family. As a Texas A&M graduate, Light said she knows the importance of community and the love that develops as a result. Not only did Light’s two children “grow up in the restaurant,” but the employees also think of themselves as a family, Light said.
This led to the creation of “family meal,” a nightly tradition in which all employees eat dinner together and prepare for the evening before opening to customers. Bomberg said this makes Ronin a special place among restaurants.
“My favorite part about Ronin is the people I work with,” Bomberg said. “It’s truly like a family company in every way. I feel very lucky to work with such wonderful people.”
De La Garza said this specified scope in priorities ensures Ronin stays involved in the community in which it serves. In this way, all customers who eat at Ronin are supporting the Brazos Valley and ensuring local businesses are well-taken care of.
“In every aspect, this business is local and family-owned,” De La Garza said. “And when I say local, it’s not only supporting a small family restaurant. It’s also supporting the ranchers where we get our meat; the farmers where we get our produce; small wineries, breweries and coffee shops. You’re supporting more than just us.”
As part of its commitment to the Bryan-College Station “family,” Ronin acts as more than just a farm and restaurant. The business caters and hosts events, including weddings, graduation celebrations and trivia nights, among other affairs.
Hungry to continue pursuing her passion of serving others, Light said Ronin offers something that can’t be found anywhere else in the community.
“Because everything comes from a place where we have a hand in it, all of our food has a story,” Light said. “It’s pretty unique in that aspect. It’s food with soul.”