FARM Cafe will offer food for everyone
So, you decide to try this new cafe in downtown Boone.
You sit down to a nutritious meal made from locally produced products. You are surrounded by an inviting atmosphere with smiling diners, servers, cooks and chefs.
The meal is finished.
You look around, hoping to catch the eye of a server to get the check.
Then you realize: There is no check.
Instead, there is a sign, reading, "Pay what you think the food is worth."
You later learn that some people work at the cafe in exchange for meals. You find out the paid workers earn a fair wage, and local farmers gain another sales outlet for their goods.
You've arrived at the FARM Cafe (Feed All Regardless of Means)- the area's first sharing kitchen.
Although the cafe is only a conceptual seed now, organizers hope supporters will plant it together, germinate the seed and watch it blossom into a potent crop to combat hunger in the High Country.
The idea for a non-profit community cafe first took root and blossomed when Renee Boughman, a sous chef at Rowland's in Blowing Rock, read an article about a non-profit restaurant in Salt Lake City called One World Everybody Eats, a restaurant operated by Denise Cerreta. Cafe customers pay for their food on a volunteer basis.
"I thought that was the craziest thing I'd ever heard, and then I read the article, and it was amazing," she said.
Several of Boughman's fellow members and friends at High Country United Church of Christ began to discuss bringing the radical concept to the area.
"The idea just started having a life of its own," Boughman said.
Over time, Boughman, along with HCUCC pastor Shelly Wilson, gathered a group of like-minded people and began the planning process, which included building an online presence at farmcafe.org. Along with Boughman and Wilson, the group includes Andy Long, the executive chef at Storie Street Grille in Blowing Rock; Stuart Magnum, owner of MPrints; and Christof den Biggelaar, an agroecologist with Appalachian State University.
The group is currently trying to find a suitable location either in or near downtown Boone.
Boughman said FARM Cafe's mission will be to "build a healthy, honest, inclusive community by providing high quality, delicious meals produced from local sources served in a restaurant where everybody eats regardless of means."
"It is not a soup kitchen, but a sharing kitchen," she added.
The FARM Cafe concept has roots in the One World Everybody Eats Foundation - an idea that grew from the original cafe in Salt Lake City.
In 2003, Cerreta began serving organic food and let customers chose the portions and the price. The concept quickly grew into other such cafes across the country.
"Borrowing the basics of the One World idea we hope to open a cafe in Boone that meets the basic needs of feeding those that are hungry but also meets the needs of those who desire community," Boughman said.
Finding an affordable location - the "soil" if you will - may prove to be the group's biggest challenge.
Downtown real estate can often be overpriced and not up to municipal codes or require extensive renovations to meet health codes for restaurants. However, Boughman is confident that the community will see value in the idea.
"It's funny that this is considered a radical concept in business, but to us it just makes sense," Boughman said.
"Why not work somewhere where you can showcase the efforts of local farmers and producers, have chefs creatively preparing meals, and volunteers working with dignity and perhaps finding a way to create their own path in sustainable living?"
When the FARM Cafe gets up and running, it will join the ranks of several sharing kitchens across the U.S. and North Carolina.
Current sites include the SAME (So Al May Eat) Cafe in Denver, Colo., A Better World Cafe in Highland Park, N.J., One World Spokane: Organic Community Kitchen in Spokane, Wash., and A Better World Cafe (One Durham Everybody Eats) in Durham.
FARM Cafe is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group, and organizers are looking for community support, including donations, ideas and volunteers, as well as prospects for a suitable cafe location.
"You can also get involved by coming to our meetings and donating your time," Boughman said.
Wilson said, in addition to the nutritional value of the cafe concept, the effort can also feed spiritual needs.
"As a person of faith, I feel that our relationship to the growing and sharing of food is an essential part of our spiritual practice," she said.
"Jesus and other spiritual teachers enjoin all who follow in a holy path to welcome everyone, particularly those in need, to the table of plenty."
"I want to be in a caring community where people share their lives and dreams with each other," she said. "I believe this cafe is a workable solution to the needs evident in our town."
For more information about the FARM Cafe concept, e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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