Local farmer co-op cafe opens on the North Side
By GRAIG GRAZIOSI
Cultivate: A Co-Op Cafe may be a new concept for local diners, but there’s nothing foreign about its fare.
Cultivate is a restaurant featuring food grown by local farmers throughout the Mahoning Valley. The farmers own and operate the co-op – which includes the Lake-to-River online market, the Commonwealth kitchen incubator and the North Side Farmers’ Market – and provide nearly all of the ingredients for the cafe’s dishes from their crops. As the menu is based on local availability, offered items change based on the season.
It’s located at 901 Elm St. across from the Lake-to-River online market building. Parking is available on the street and in an empty lot next door. Cultivate will celebrate its grand opening at 11 a.m. today with a ribbon-cutting, special menu items and drawings throughout the day.
Co-ops are companies that are owned by a group of members who usually buy into the business, with major company decisions made democratically by vote.
The cafe was open to the public for dinner Thursday evening as part of a soft-open event to build interest for the grand opening.
The night’s featured dish was a chicken and waffle sampler produced from Dandelion Lane Farms chicken and incubator-made waffles. Outside of the cafe’s twist on the Southern specialty – the chicken was pulled in a black bean stew and served over the waffle – the menu included standard cafe fare, such as soups, salads, sandwiches, scones and smoothies, as well as unique items such as handmade lentil hummus and quinoa salads.
Anette Ricci of Girard and Sybil Torella of Canfield were among the soft-open patrons Thursday. Torella said she heard a radio advertisement for the cafe and decided to invite her friend, Ricci, to check it out with her.
“I work at the library, so there’s really nowhere around like this that’s close,” Torella said. “I heard they had scones here, and I like those, so I came by. It’s very good.”
Ricci settled on the cafe’s salad sampler – a plate with a serving of kale quinoa salad, chicken salad and egg salad – and was impressed both by the plate and its price.
Though the cafe is relatively new – it has been serving customers in a limited capacity since August – it is the result of a long line of community-oriented food endeavors on the North Side.
Jim Converse, the regional economic development coordinator for the Commonwealth kitchen incubator, described the cafe as the next step in the evolution of a “food hub” on the North Side. Beginning with the North Side Farmer’s Market in 2003 and continuing with the founding of the co-op’s online food market and the kitchen incubator, Cultivate is the culmination of more than a decade of community work.
Farming and community are built into the structure of the cafe. A mural across the rear wall depicts green fields and farmlands that give way to the familiar Youngstown skyline; the smoothies bear names such as the “Wick Park” and “Hopewell Furnace”; and most of the minds behind the cafe are also the hands that harvest the crops for its dishes.
Melissa Miller, the president of the Lake-to-River co-op board, is a farmer at Miller Livestock in Kinsman, and just sold the cafe a selection of beef cheek. Bethany Maizel, who handles marketing and outreach for the co-op, also runs Avant Garden Mushroomery with her husband. They, of course, provide mushrooms.
“We want to establish this neighborhood as a place where food happens,” Miller said. “A lot of people are working in different ways to revitalize the city – this is how we’re doing it.”
There are more than 25 farmers and food producers in the co-op, including Miller Livestock, Angiuli’s Farm Market in Canfield, Avant Garden and Iron Roots Farms in Youngstown.