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One Acre Café event gets project on its way

Jan Hearne • Feb 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

The RSVPs on Facebook told me this wasn’t going to be a pretentious affair, and despite my mild-to-moderate social anxiety, I figured I might have a good time and learn about a community project in the works.

A week ago Saturday, Jan. 26, I joined an elbow-to-elbow crowd at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough for the One Acre Café seed event. Executive committee member Beverly Jenkins of Main Street Café and Catering provided the hors d’oeuvres, which I’m sure inspired more than one person to make it out on a cold winter night.

There were lots of folks I knew there. It was good to see them and catch up. It wasn’t a wear-your-best-dress event; it was more of a bring-your-best-self event, with silent auction items and donation jars scattered about to raise money to get this project off the ground.

One Acre Café is a nonprofit “pay-what-you-can” community café with the opening projected for fall in downtown Johnson City.

One Acre Café will serve “delicious and healthy meals using vegetables and fruits produced through local sources whenever possible,” organizers say.

The café is about serving up food and dignity.

SAME Café in Denver, Colo., is an operation with similar goals. Their Jan. 30 menu was Zucchini Corn Chowder; Ribollita soup; Roasted Corn Salad; Couscous Salad; Buffalo Chicken Pizza; and Apple, Pecan and Blue Cheese salad.

The idea is to make dining a communal experience rather than one in which the poor are served by the charitable. At One Acre Café those who are struggling mightily and those who are blessed will eat side by side, asked only to pay what they can.

Those without money will be able to work for their food: sweep the floor, wash some dishes, wipe off the tables.

The presentation portion of the evening began with a filmed talk by Libby Birky, cofounder, with her husband, of SAME Café. The couple borrowed $30,000 to start the café in 2006, and it has been a success.

“Giving back implied I was separate from the community,” she said. The purpose of SAME and One Acre is to create community.

Renee Boughman, executive director and executive chef of F.A.R.M. (Feed All Regardless of Means) in Boone, N.C., was there to tell us about their café, which opened in May.

“I’ve been a chef in fine dining for more than 25 years, and I’ve never loved a job like this job,” she said, adding. “It’s not a pie-in-the-sky crazy idea. It works.”

And, it will work here.

If you want to join Jan Orchard, Bryan Orchard, Michelle Watts and Beverly Jenkins in their effort to open and operate One Acre Café, visit www.oneacrecafe.org, facebook.com/oneacrecafe or follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/OneAcreCafe.

Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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