This story first appeared in print in the Winter 2020 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Read the e-edition here:
By Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine
Do you ever wonder about the avocado you’re munching on in winter, what its journey was to get to you? Or relish in the extra sweetness of carrots picked from the home veggie garden? Terra Firma’s Kitchen, Revelstoke’s newest cafe, is the result of these thoughts and when ‘what if’ questions come to life.
Terra Park and Kevan McCroy have been firm friends for many years. As moms with kids in ski league, they would steal time away to ski and talk dreams. Their passion for good food and keeping it local saw them throw ideas around over the years of a farm-to-table cafe concept for Revelstoke and what that might look like.
“Modern times have made it too easy to make whatever you want when you want it,” Terra explains. She’s the owner of the local Terra Firma Farms, which she runs with her partner Rob.
“Eating seasonally takes advantage of the food that tastes best during the season it was meant to be eaten. For example we are growing certain varieties of squash that were harvested early October but won’t be at their peak of flavour until they’ve been stored for at least a few months while other squash varieties need to be used up within the first couple months of harvest. Nature has a way or providing us an abundance for every season.”
The cafe idea was just something that was fun to talk about until fortuitously this year the space from the closed Minh Tuyet’s Vietnamese Restaurant became available. Downtown on Victoria Road near Save-On Foods, needing only a few renovations and a conversion to a homey farmhouse style, it was the potential the pair needed for the endeavour’s start. And Kevan, having sold the successful The Modern Bakeshop & Cafe last year after 15 years of hard work, was free to set her business know-how on something new.
“I’m excited to do another place,” Kevan says, who also previously owned The Summit Cafe in Canmore for seven years. “It’s something different than what I’m used to, something I can learn from.”
And this is going to be different, depending on the seasons rather than the transport industry.
Food security, meaning having a stable food supply, has been brought to the forefront of our minds since the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting how reliant we are on the globalized food supply and, if something goes wrong, how seriously we might be impacted. Revelstoke’s early years were focused on self-sufficiency, with as many as 200 farms stretching along the Columbia River feeding their families until the 1960s. But these days, that number has dwindled drastically and as highlighted in the 2014 Revelstoke Food Security Strategy, we rely mostly on food coming from further than 250 kilometres away.
Revelstoke’s community values reflect lifestyle choices of sustainability and it’s one of the reasons why Terra Firma Farms, now in its 11th season, has been such a success. They’re a frequent stop at the local farmers markets, they have a veggie box subscription in the summer, and they are part of the Local Food Initiative’s annual farm-to-table fundraiser dinner.
While it’s not uncommon for restaurants to feature fresh and local food and advertise seasonal specials, this cafe takes it a step further with having Terra Firma as its main source of food, merely five kilometres away, as well as regional suppliers.
“Our mission is to connect people to real food,” Kevan says. “We think Revelstoke really cares about where their food is coming from.”
Many are familiar with the exceptional taste of something grown in the backyard and Kevan and Terra want to build on that for the majority, to show that seasonal eating is anything but boring.
While you won’t see any avocado toast or banana bread, you will find their winter’s menu full of root vegetable soups and salads, sourdough bread made with local grains, pumpkin and squash folded into baked goods, creamy oatmeal and granola with stewed orchard fruits, and hearty breakfasts made with organic farm-fresh eggs and pasture-raised pork.
This focus on keeping it fresh and local will have the chefs on their toes and customers enamoured with wholesome food.
“We will have to be nimble and creative,” Terra says. “Our chefs will be creating seasonal menus as well as using whatever is coming fresh from the fields that week. Everything is made from scratch creating a more labour-intensive system.”
The cafe’s capacity will have a maximum of 32 people with tables spaced appropriately. Customers can order at the till or sit and be served. While it may seem like a brave move to open in COVID times, Terra and Kevan are confident in the values that drive this idea and the community.