Walking the talk: A true farm-to-table cafe

May 22, 2022

By Caryn Anderson

RE Farm Café offers a unique dining experience in a picturesque setting. Photo: RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm

The hospitality industry is a major driver of Happy Valley’s economy, with visitors and locals generating hundreds of millions of dollars on average every year. For those looking for stunning views and literal farm-to-table cuisine in the area, they can find both and so much more at RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm, a thriving business that’s a restaurant and also a working farm. 

RE Farm Café was born out of nearly 50 years of combined experience in the restaurant and hotel industries. As owners Monica and Duke Gastiger embarked upon their entrepreneurial adventure, they saw how the business could impact the environment and the local food system, and how they could interact with the local community in the process. It quickly became clear that RE Farm was an opportunity to do something transformative.  

“Farming that includes a plan for the future and not just immediate needs is essential. We always try to support local, small, family farms. Consider the ramifications of the restaurant industry getting on board and making a commitment to source locally. What's on your plate is not only fresh and delicious, as a consumer, you've made a choice to invest in your health and community. It's a win-win!”

Today, they’ve created a business that many customers refer to as “an experience.” 

Monica said, “Whenever I hear people share that they learned something new about food, energy use, what to plant and other ideas they can ‘take home’, I think we've, in part, met some of our intended goals,” she said. “People often come to the café and compliment the structure and the amazing views. It’s a good reminder that we are indeed providing an experience.”

The idea that sparked a transformative business

When asked what the process of starting such a business was like, Monica said, “It was exhilarating and exhausting.”

She continued, “We had amazing people who dreamed this into existence. Initially, we held a brainstorming, idea-sparking meeting where we garnered community input for what they wanted and what they saw as needs. We had a broad age range of participants, from high school students to retirees. We invited community members with diverse educational and employment backgrounds. Their energy and ideas sparked broader thinking and informed direction. We also partnered with the 7Group, whose visionary approach and support was and is amazing.” 

Although neither had farming experience, Duke brought culinary and hospitality expertise to the business and Monica, who had an early career in landscape architecture, has always been driven by spending time in nature and appreciating the wonder of the environment. 

“We both recognized the true importance of the intersection of food and green,” Monica noted. “Farming that includes a plan for the future and not just immediate needs is essential. We always try to support local, small, family farms. Consider the ramifications of the restaurant industry getting on board and making a commitment to source locally. What's on your plate is not only fresh and delicious, as a consumer, you've made a choice to invest in your health and community. It's a win-win!”

 “Many restaurants call themselves ‘farm-to-table’; it's a popular buzz[word] now and I'm glad people are paying attention. Using the term and living it are different entities. We have a few places in the area that are genuinely devoted to local sourcing and I applaud them. I'm very proud that we walk the talk and present a true farm-to-table café. You truly can see our farm from your table.”

Their initial concept was to open a café located on an independently-run farm; however, after the original site fell through, the duo shifted their vision and decided to own the farm on which the café would reside. The dream was born in 2014 and the doors of RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm officially opened in July 2019. 

Monica shared the experience, explaining, “Dreaming took time and then we ran into issues with the farm café ‘not being allowed’ so we worked through a variance that now allows farm cafés in the Center Region,” she said. “From there, we needed to find property and work through financing.” 

Financing wasn’t the only challenge the café faced, though. Timing was also overwhelming. For example, during initial construction, they needed seven dry days in a row to create the farm’s sand mount area. The process started in June. 

The two said, “Remember the summer it never seemed to stop raining? I always will. On Dec. 7, we finally had seven consecutive dry days and the ground wasn't frozen, so we could move ahead.”

The Chef's Table is available Fridays and Saturdays for unforgettable three or five-course meals. Photo: RE Farm Café

Then, the energy-efficient, induction cooking suite that was uniquely designed for RE Farm Café arrived six months beyond targeted delivery. 

“Fully-hired staff were hired in May 2019,” Monica recalled. “The suite arrived on July 6. We installed it in record time, did a soft opening and grand opening in two weeks.”

Now, RE Farm is a restaurant unique to the region and to the industry.

Monica said, “Many restaurants call themselves ‘farm-to-table’; it's a popular buzz[word] now and I'm glad people are paying attention. Using the term and living it are different entities. We have a few places in the area that are genuinely devoted to local sourcing and I applaud them. I'm very proud that we walk the talk and present a true farm-to-table café. You truly can see our farm from your table.” 

Creating opportunity and a sense of family in Happy Valley

Now with years of experience in the hospitality industry, Monica has an expert view on what makes hospitality in Happy Valley so special. She said, “People in the hospitality industry know the meaning and depth of teamwork like none other. Each person plays a defined role that can be easily expanded to support others. Our staff has described their coworkers as ‘family.’ That’s pretty special.”

“This community is action-minded and most people want to be supportive of businesses and practices that continue to evolve all of us into more mindful beings.”

Additionally, Monica credited the unique Happy Valley ecosystem as supporting RE Farm Café’s growth and success. “This community is action-minded and most people want to be supportive of businesses and practices that continue to evolve all of us into more mindful beings,” she noted. 

That support has come in a variety of ways, from people spending family time and creating priceless memories at the café, to patrons sharing their experiences, thereby giving others a chance to try new things.  

Monica hopes that the café continues operating as a space and place for people to make connections well into the future. 

To learn more about RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm, including its CSA and farm market, dining options and special events, visit https://refarmcafe.com/

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