Gary Wertish

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), in partnership with Birchwood Café, is taking over the restaurant space at 750 South 2nd Street in Minneapolis. The riverside eatery will feature Minnesota-grown products and produce.

“We have the opportunity to get the farmer's story out there, and I think that's really the best part about it,” said Gary Wertish, MFU president. “This is an opportunity to try to educate consumers through their food of the importance of farmers.”

MFU took over ownership of the building at the beginning of the year. It is currently undergoing construction and remodeling. The plan is to be ready to open this spring.

The building is located in downtown Minneapolis, next to the Mill City Museum and across from the Guthrie Theater. It was previously known as Spoonriver.

Spoonriver was home to Chef Brenda Langton, a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. The location is already well known in the Twin Cities area for providing locally-sourced foods.

“It’s a historic part of Minneapolis,” he said. “The flour mill, farming and farmers played a big role in establishing Minneapolis.”

With any venture like this, there is risk. By partnering with Birchwood Café, MFU hopes to mitigate as much of that risk as possible.

Birchwood Café has 24 years of experience in the restaurant business. They pride themselves on serving locally sourced foods in the Twin Cities area.

As the restaurant gets closer to its opening day, MFU will be reaching out to their 14,000 farmer members for help. They will be looking for growers who can, not just provide the food to fill the restaurant, but also share their stories with the customers.

Social media will play a major role in both advertising the establishment, as well as getting those individual farmer stories out to the public.

Less than 1 percent of the nation’s population are farmers, but agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the nation’s economy. Everyone is impacted by farmers, even if they don’t know how.

A farmer-owned restaurant serving locally-grown food is one way to bridge the gap between grower and consumer, putting those farmers directly in front of the consumers.

“We want to show the farmers behind the food and the struggles that they go through to provide that food to the consumer,” Wertish said. “It's a chance to put a Minnesota farmer’s food directly from the farm right onto the consumers' plate at our restaurant."