So let’s just get right into the big news and then we’ll break it down: starting this summer I—with a massive amount of assistance from Hannah, of course—will be taking over as the head chef and executive farmer of a new restaurant in Versailles called Spark Community Cafe. I will still be a full-time farmer at Rough Draft Farmstead, but I will also be a chef. Let me explain.
FIRST, WHAT IS SPARK?
Spark Community Cafe is a nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant opening in downtown Versailles, Kentucky (this summer), and Hannah and I are beyond excited to be a part of it.
It is estimated that 17 percent of Kentuckians and 22 percent of Kentucky children are food insecure—that’s roughly one and five of our fellow citizens. Food insecurity exists in every county in Kentucky, and every county in the United States. Spark’s pay-what-you-can model is a brilliantly simple way of addressing this issue head on.
HOW IT WORKS
Patrons can pay the suggested price, or more, or less, depending on their financial circumstances. Payments are kept anonymous so no one knows how much anyone else pays. Patrons who cannot afford a meal are able to volunteer at the restaurant and earn meals that way. One can also volunteer his or her time to donate meals so others may have a meal. Ultimately, the goal of Spark and the many other restaurants like it is to end food insecurity in the community—to make sure kids and adults, single parents, poor, or just cash-strapped people alike can get a good, nutritious meal when they need it – and can dine with dignity.
Offering food to those people who may not have access to a nutritious meal every day speaks to Hannah and me as citizens, but also as farmers. Hannah and I have always struggled with how expensive our produce is. There is no easy way for us to grow it cheaper, sell it cheaper, and still make a sufficient living. So this pay-what-you-can model presents a very exciting opportunity for us to get our produce to those who may not normally, or regularly, be able to afford it while still making a living for ourselves. This is especially true as Spark’s founders seek to pay a living wage to their workers and support local farmers by paying a fair price for the food.
My role will be to create seasonal menus and train the staff on how to prepare them. I will likewise be utilizing ingredients from our farm and others (so if you’re a farmer or artisan in the area, make sure to email me at email@example.com so I can have your info—I will be actively looking for people to provide certain crops, meats, etc..). The goal will be to use as much local foods as possible, with an emphasis on farms and artisans closest to the restaurant and within Kentucky first, and pay what the crops are actually worth.
This project will certainly be extra work for us, but it’s something we believe is not only important, but in line with our values, goals, and faith.
Ultimately, almost a decade ago now, when we looked around and asked ourselves how we could affect the most change, Hannah and I chose farming. Now through Spark, we will be able to amplify that goal.
Of course, Rough Draft Farmstead will still be running our CSA (SIGN UP HERE). We will still be selling to other restaurants, but Spark will be our other exciting (ad)venture this year. So we hope you will check out and follow Spark!
If you would like to get involved, volunteer, donate, or just learn more, check out Spark on Facebook, Instagram or at sparkcommunitycafeky.org. We hope you will come support this cause while we all work to eradicate food insecurity in our communities.