“Our food system is broken” might seem like an odd premise for a restaurant, but stay with me:
When Rob and Adrienne Shaunfield began to develop the idea for The Farmer’s Table Café, it was after decades of experience on both sides of the table. Adrienne spent years working in hunger relief, while Rob’s background was in managing restaurants. Each had witnessed first-hand the problems with the current food system, including but not limited to food waste.
As they began to envision a new project to serve as their family’s next step, Adrienne and Rob knew they wanted to source as many locally grown ingredients as possible, while doing right by local farmers. They started with breakfast because they knew they could find local and organic eggs and locally-milled flour, 365 days a year.
The Farmer’s Table Café boasts a wide range of options for country breakfast, from standard fare such as huevos rancheros and biscuits and gravy, to favorites-with-a-twist like delicious sweet potato pancakes. Breakfast tacos, “Benny on a Biscuit” (eggs benedict served on a southern-style biscuit), and lots of kale options round out the breakfast menu.
It was Chef Anne Carroll’s idea to expand the café’s menu, and The Farmer’s Table Café now serves dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Classically trained in French cooking, Chef Anne serves up Southern food with a French flair. Case in point: pork chops sourced from Bansley’s Berkshire Ridge Farm, maple-brined and served up with a béarnaise sauce.
What makes The Farmer’s Table Café special is their relationship with local farmers. Chef Anne calls it “a sense of community and family” that she shares not only with her hard-working, passionate kitchen staff but also with those who supply the fresh ingredients. A chalkboard on the wall lists the farms they source from, and the bios of each farm are displayed on the table.
Rob flips through the biographies of each family-owned farm or artisan brewer. He calls out New South Produce Cooperative, saying, “This is the game changer.”
Since New South is run out of Central Arkansas, they are able to take advantage of a longer growing season, and with their wide network of farms from all over Arkansas, they can solve many of the logistical problems can face farmers and restaurants. Rob points to my sweet potato pancakes, saying that they started as a seasonal item, but now they are available year-round thanks to the Co-Op.
While Northwest Arkansas offers a number of farm-to-table restaurants such as Eleven or The Hive, The Farmer’s Table Café is one of the more accessible to a variety of incomes and age groups. Its quaint country settings on South School ensure U of A students are able to walk or ride their bicycles. The low prices (my husband and I ate for under $20) make a high quality meal accessible to more of the local community.
This is something else that was important to Adrienne and Rob’s vision for The Farmer’s Table Café: the idea healthy and fresh food should be accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds. For this reason, they also donate to Seven Hills Homeless Center and Life Source International, along with other charitable organizations. “We don’t believe it’s a fad,” Rob says of farm-to-table eating.
And, lucky for us, neither is The Farmer’s Table Café.