Taking the farm-to-table movement a step further, State College restaurateurs Duke and Monica Gastiger are planning RE Farm Café, where, among other innovations, cooks will work in nearby fields, growing the restaurant’s seasonal produce.
The Gastigers are partnering with John LeClaire, owner of the 31-acre J.L. Farms, for the groundbreaking eatery.
“RE Farm Cafe will be more than a farm cafe sourcing local foods on a seasonal basis,” explains Monica. “The open kitchen design allows diners to experience a cooking lesson as they dine, understanding how to incorporate the local ingredients using induction cooking. Induction cooking is cooler, safer and cleaner than gas cooking. Our cooks will also be the servers and they will work in the fields two days a week so they have intimate knowledge of food sourcing. It will be a no-tip restaurant, meaning our employees will be paid a living wage.”
“We have a personal commitment to live responsibly and want to bring this idea to life through a café,” says Monica. “We love the rural nature of central PA. Supporting small farmers and promoting agricultural diversity is important to maintaining a healthy community and environment.”
The 58-seat restaurant is being designed to standards set by the Living Building Challenge, which include operating with net-zero energy and water (“A pretty ambitious challenge for a kitchen!” notes Gastiger), beauty and social justice.
“The building itself will serve as an educational model of repurposing materials, smart energy use and an emphasis on ecologically responsible ways to live everyday,” she adds. “Carpooling, biking and hiking in will all be encouraged. Outside the building, native plants will be used and explained so customers can take home knowledge of what to plant and why.”
The team, which also includes Kutztown environmental consultants 7 Group, builder Envinity in State College, Penn Terra Engineering of State College and Lancaster, architect Mike Heluga and PBCI-Allen Mechanical and Electrical in State College, is aiming for a summer 2016 opening. The project advanced significantly in June when the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors gave zoning approval to farm cafes in rural agricultural zones.
Source: Monica Gastiger, RE Farm Café
Writer: Elise Vider