John Rivers in 4R

From BBQ To Sustainability: The Mission Behind 4 Rivers Smokehouse

Barbeque is an American classic, something that always brings families together. 4 Rivers Smokehouse is one of the elite BBQ restaurants in Florida serving just that. But beyond serving food, founder John Rivers has a mission of serving the community and his team members in a God Driven and Mother Nature approved way. 

Her Campus (HC): What compelled you to start 4 Rivers?

John Rivers (JR): It was a combination of doing something I was passionate about, which was cooking and combining that passion with two things. One, an actual occupation, and two, helping other people. 4R started as a ministry fundraising for a 6-year-old little girl battling cancer. It was the first time I could use my passion to help other people. The ministry of 4 Rivers came first through. Those first four years we operated out of our garage and helped anyone in a tough situation. After that, the ministries kept growing year after year eventually evolving into the smokehouse there is today. 

HC: What has been one of your biggest takeaways since opening 4 Rivers Smokehouse?

JR: I have found an appreciation in that you don’t have to separate work from ministry. Over the 11 years, we have continued to build the restaurant around the ministry, keeping it in the middle of our business. Anybody can make a sale but to know that your work is contributing to someone else’s life, that brings value to your life. 

HC: What is the key mission of 4R?

JR: Whether you’re running a minister out of your garage, building a 40-acre farm or greetings guests, you have the opportunity to impact someone’s life. It has nothing to do with the money, it’s all about intention. I challenge my senior team to see how many people’s days they can make just by interacting with them. I challenge them with this: can you bring joy to anyone’s day? 

 HC: You recently stated 4R Farm in your hometown community, can you explain that a little and what your goals are for the farm?

JR: The Farm is a campus and an education facility. From the simplest side, it is to help young inner-city students appreciate and understand where fruits and vegetables come from. You would be amazed at how many people don’t know where their food comes from. The harmony and dependency that we have with the land and the blessings that God gave us can provide exactly what we need. When we lose that harmony there is a disconnection. The planet’s health and human health are synonymous. Mother Nature is much stronger than us. So it’s teaching regenerative farming, practices of culinary health, understanding food as medicine and how to build a healthy diet. Teaching farmers new techniques and technologies that are positive for the land. How communities can produce food in an urban farm for their neighbor.

Growing plants Photo by Francesco Gallarotti from Unsplash

HC: What made you venture into the farm/sustainability aspect of your business?

JR: The foundation of hospitality is that you feed and serve people and then you find joy in it. You have to love providing and nourishing your customers. When Monica (John’s wife) and I saw the struggles in the food system in Orange County we had to do something. One out of five students struggle with food insecurity and the only meal they get is at school. But compare that to the state of Florida, there are nearly one billion pounds of produce that never make it to market. So there is a broken food system that we look at and it’s not just about handing out food, it starts with education. Teaching the community and young students the importance of a healthy diet and how to obtain that is key. 

John Rivers’ mission has always been to serve and it is evident in the smokehouse and 4R farm. Both of which, in their own ways give back to the community. It’s not often you see a barbeque doubling as a sustainable method of teaching but John has done just that. While his one mission has always been to serve, he does so in a multitude of ways. 

Find out more about 4 Rivers Smokehouse here and 4R Foundation/Farm here.

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