Perspectives (February 2015)
Sara Merz, Director
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of having dinner at Irregardless Cafe on the 40th anniversary of Arthur Gordon opening the restaurant. His wife Anya has joined him in running it for the last 17 years. A few new members of the newly-formed Capital Area Food Network made it an opportunity to get to know each other better, and share in a celebration of local food, and the success of Irregardless’ business and service to this community.
One of my dinner companions was the first volunteer for Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS), another AHA partner, and she continues to volunteer distributing food. She told a story about how after the fire 15 years ago at Irregardless, Arthur kept his staff on the payroll if they would volunteer, since the restaurant was closed during repairs. Many of them volunteered at IFFS, making food pick-up and delivery possible on a larger scale than before. I was struck by this ethic of service. Their service continues. Irregardless is also generously sponsoring a small private breakfast AHA is hosting for elected officials.
You may know that Anya and Arthur own the Well Fed Garden in Raleigh, with the work done by both staff and volunteers. Some of that food is also served in the restaurant. While it was before my time in Raleigh, I understand the desire to grow food for the restaurant was one of the things that drove the problem-solving and changes to Raleigh City UDO related to food. This is an example of building a local-food centered business, community service, and collaborative work to shift rules that unintentionally limited commerce around local food.
Interestingly in our table conversation, one guest mentioned that she would like her considerable yard space to be used for farming. She has half an acre in town in Fuquay-Varina, plus a backyard which could be gardened, with limited storage for tools and equipment. She was even in a conversation with someone at the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina who may be interested. This led to a discussion about the need for an online tool connecting people who have land with those who want land access for growing. And we learned that exact idea is being discussed by a group that came out of one of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation Gathering for Good/Second Saturday events. They are calling the idea V2V (Vacant to Vital) and are exploring next steps.
It is amazing to see the considerable contributions so many people have made to this community and to advancing the work of local food. Thank you all for your service and the amazing creative energy that is helping to make our community happier and healthier!