Terra Cafe, Morgantown
“Before Terra can be anything else, it has to be a part of its community. We strive to create a space where members of our community can relax and gather together in a welcoming atmosphere. Being a part of our community is also supporting others as we hope to be supported. This means buying as many of our products and ingredients from local and regional sources as we can.”
This little statement on the table tent where I am seated captures the essence of Terra Café, located in the Star City neighborhood of Morgantown, WV. Nestled down by the Edith Barrill waterfront park along the Caperton Rail Trail, it is easy to access. There is ample free parking, and there are even bike racks out front. A backyard patio fills up in the afternoon as customers enjoy the fresh air.
Terra Café opened in September of 2011, and has been a member of WVFarm2U since February 2012. After ordering the “Highland Breakfast”- herbed oatmeal bannock topped with a poached egg and honey-herb béchamel, served with a side of fruit and mixed nuts, I sat down to ask the manager, Aaron, a few questions.
Terra Café began with a vision of local ownership and having locally sourced fresh ingredients available to serve the community. And this seems to be a big hit with customers- there is a steady flow of people into and out of the café. They purchase from a variety of farms in West Virginia, and also some through a foodservice distributor in western Pennsylvania. During the winter, it is much harder to purchase local foods, but they look forward to the market opening again for fresh berries and other items.
Working with local farmers is a pleasure for Terra. The farmers they work with are down-to-earth and accommodating. Some farmers make deliveries to the café, and on Saturday mornings one of the Terra chefs can be found browsing the Morgantown Farmer’s Market picking up items to feature on the menu in the coming week.
Sourcing locally brings its own set of challenges, though. Working at a smaller scale, it is difficult to have consistency, and this requires flexibility and creativity on the part of the chefs. There are tradeoffs that must occur in order- not everything can be bought locally. For example, local bacon is simply not available at a volume sufficient to meet demand. There is only so much bacon that can be harvested from one pig, so they must go through a foodservice distributor to supply what they need. Eggs are another tough shell. In addition to the price being inhibitive, when they go through 15 dozen eggs in one morning, it’s hard to find a local producer able to supply that volume.
All of the breads and pastries are made here at the café, and there are a variety of standard menu items with an assortment of featured items that pop up as product is available. For more menu information, check out their website.
Aaron had some great recommendations for restaurant managers trying to purchase local products. “Be patient and flexible, be grateful for what you can get, and be committed”. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it”. And for farmers who want to market to local restaurants? There is a great demand. If you can find time out of planting and harvesting to talk to potential restaurants, I think you’ll find that the restaurants will leap at the opportunity.
So, if you’re in the Morgantown area, and looking to support a local business that gives back to the community, be sure to stop by Terra Café.~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As the comments indicate, this post generated some concern about how much the restaurant actually uses local ingredients. The discussion was good—it raises the issue of how difficult it is in this area to be a “all local” restaurant and also helped us (Roanna and Beth) understand that we need to be more specific in the reporting of the local ingredient dishes prepared and offered by any restaurant we publish here. So, thank you for raising concern and please let’s use this as an example that we are ALWAYS open to ideas to investigate for presentation here.
Roanna went back and spoke with Aaron Russell, the manager of Terra Cafe. Here is what he shared:
Thank you for your blog post – it was great. And it has generated a lively
As I said in our interview, we certainly don’t want to give the impression
that everything that comes into our kitchen is local. We do the best we
can as a small, growing business to support local growers and producers
whenever possible. We aren’t perfect, but I’m proud of what we do, and
certainly aren’t trying to mislead anyone.
That being said, here’s the list:
-Tofu from Spring Creek Tofu – Spencer, WV
-Maple Syrup from Richter’s Maplehouse – Pickens, WV
-Honey from ThistleDew Farm – Proctor, WV
-Chicken from Gerber’s Amish Farm – Kidron, OH
-Milk and cream from Turner Dairy Farms – Penn Hills, PA
-Apples seasonally (mostly in the fall) – Dawson’s Orchards – Enon Valley, PA
-Seasonal produce from growers at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market, though a
lot of it from Round Right Farms – Terra Alta, WV
-Our one draft beer is a rotating selection from the Morgantown Brewing
Company – Morgantown, WV
-Cabernet Blend wine with all grapes grown in WV from Potomac Highlands
Winery – Keyser, WV
I think we can see that there is a good effort with many ingredients coming from local farms. Perhaps if you are a farm local to Morgantown with products to offer, contact Aaron! And, finally, I think we can patronize this place and enjoy our meals!