A Year on the FARM

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: May. 2, 2013 | Modified: May. 2, 2013
A Year on the FARM

FARM Café volunteer Susan Tate mans the donation station at the pay-what-you-can restaurant’s grand opening in May 2012. The café will celebrate its one-year anniversary Saturday, May 4, with live music and a special meal.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

One year after opening its doors to the needy and hungry of Watauga County, FARM (Feed All Regardless of Means) Café in downtown Boone has served more than 16,000 meals and counting.

“It’s going really well,” executive chef Renee Boughman said. “We have ups and downs, but we’ve had a lot of great community support. We’ve also had tremendous support from the university.”

While FARM is geared to help the less fortunate, Boughman said its model is relatively new and is catching on across the country.

Boughman said the pay-what-you-can or work-for-a-meal model initially came from a group of local chefs wanting to start a community café.

Once they came across an article about Denise Cerreta, who is credited with founding the national not-for-profit restaurant model, the café idea began to take hold.

The group began researching the concept in August 2009, and the café officially opened in May 2012.
Anyone who wishes to have a meal at the café, which is located in the former Boone Drug Downtown location on King Street, can give a suggested donation of $6 to $10 or work an hour to pay for their meal. They can also work an hour now and use the meal at a later time, Boughman said.

Customers can also purchase wooden nickels that work as a voucher system for later meals, which can also preserve the anonymity of the community-assisted restaurant model.

When asked what has made FARM such a success, Boughman said it is the volunteers.
“They are the backbone to our process,” she said. “If we don’t have volunteers, we don’t have the café. They mean everything to us.”

Volunteers run the gamut and include retired professionals and local college students who believe in the cause.

Funding for the café, which is overseen by a not-for-profit board of directors, comes through area fundraisers, grants and letter-writing campaigns.

“We have a couple of fundraisers coming up soon,” Boughman said. “We try not to do a whole lot, because we know the community has a smaller population than other cafés in other regions.”

As for culinary diversity, Boughman said the café’s menu is advanced — it was, after all, started by chefs — while being sensitive to the dietary needs of customers.

“We needed to have a certain amount of competitive food options, because Boone has so many good restaurants,” Boughman said.

The café offers a full buffet line, with the menu changing daily, along with soup and a salad.

“We incorporate as much local food when available and balance it out economically,” Boughman said.
The future looks brighter and brighter for the downtown upstart, as word of the restaurant reaches beyond Watauga County.

“This was a solid year for us,” Boughman said. “We are hoping more people become involved in the future.”

To celebrate a year of success, the café will host a special appreciation event Saturday, May 4, from noon to 4 p.m.

The event will showcase live music and beef tenderloin donated by Earth Fare as a menu item.
For more information, visit http://www.farmcafe.org.

Beat It

Got restaurant news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at (frank@mountaintimes.com) , or call (828) 264-6397.

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