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The F.A.R.M. Café Opens Tuesday for Lunch at 11 a.m.

By Jesse Wood

A volunteer works on the mural inside the F.A.R.M. Cafe. It was a collaborative effort by several artists. Photos by Jesse Wood

April 30, 2012. After three years of pondering, planning and renovating, the F.A.R.M Café opens to the public for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day’s main entrees – for meat eaters and vegetarians, alike – include grilled chicken with mango chutney and whole wheat penne pasta with spinach, tomato and red pepper sauce. (View full menu below.)

The F.A.R.M. acronym stands for Feed All Regardless of Means, and the concept of the community café is that customers pay what they can afford. Some may pay more – others less, and those who cannot pay may volunteer for an hour in exchange for a meal.

Executive Chef Renee Boughman said the café has two missions.

“It’s two fold. The goal is to create a community while at the same time feeding those of less means,” Boughman said. “The way we see it happening is those who can afford to pay [will] help circulate funds for those who have food security issues and instead of just going to a food pantry where they have something handed to them and walk away, this is a way [for them] to still be apart of the community.”

The community café concept is new to the High Country, but it is not a new venture. Boughman said that the concept originated in Salt Lake City, Utah, about eight years ago with the One World Cafe. She added that these cafes “have grown by leaps and bounds” with 27 of these cafés existing and just as many or more are currently in the works.

With the “pay what you can” concept, a possibility exists that folks may take advantage of the situation, but the staff feels that positivity will override any negativity as people understand the message and mission of F.A.R.M. Café.

“It’s always a concern in any venture like this,” Boughman said. “Sure there will be those fringe people who may try to take advantage of the situation … But we must simply emphasize that we are trying to build a better community, a healthy community.”

Sen. Kay Hagan toured F.A.R.M. Cafe a few weeks ago. "I am very interesting in coming back to have a meal at the F.A.R.M. Café,” Hagan said. “I love … witnessing the community spirit here in Boone. It’s infectious and you can feel it.”

Food will come from a variety of sources, and as much as possible, the F.A.R.M. Café will feature fresh, local and organic foods. For instance, food has come from Charlotte’s Greenhouse and Maverick Farms, both of Valle Crucis. Another cattle farmer, who wished to stay anonymous, has donated locally raised beef. The café is also looking forward to collaborating with New River Organic Growers.

Though the goal is to have all fresh, local and organic foods, Boughman said in today’s economy that wouldn’t be practical or affordable for the nonprofit. Some staples will come from large food vendors.

So far more than 200 people have been involved in the project, which is pretty much an all-volunteer effort, though a few paid employees are on the staff. “It’s been a truly grassroots effort,” she said.

The dining experience is about the same as any other restaurant, but just a little tweaked, Boughman said. The menu is buffet style, though she added that it isn’t all-you-can-eat. Customers will be asked to be mindful of their portions, so that no food is wasted.

“Again we are trying to educate individuals on how we consume food in this country,” Boughman said. “We all know we always end up with three times more and go out to eat throwing half of it away, and restaurants are filling up dumpsters with food everyday.”

F.A.R.M. Café is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday. In the future, the café may expand its operating hours. For more information, click to www.farmcafe.org or call 828-386-1000.

Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s Menu

Tuesday, May 1

Grilled Chicken with Mango Chutney
Whole Wheat Penne with Spinach, Tomato & Red Pepper Sauce
Sweet Tater Mashers
Vegetarian Chili
Broccoli Soup
Mixed Green Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette
Banana Pudding

Wednesday, May 2

Tilapia with Artichoke, Lemon & Basil Sauce
Red Cabbage Slaw
Hoppin’ John with Rice
Vegetarian Chili
Roasted Fennel & Tomato Soup
Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Blueberry Crisp