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Farmers Opened Cafe To Sell Their Own Produce
Ben Horn saw a need for an outlet for the food he grew, so he created one. With his wife Ava and friends Cambria Kolstad-DeVaney and Dan DeVaney, he opened the Free Range Exchange Café in Hokah, Minn., population 547.
“We serve fresh baked muffins, scones, granola and cookies, breakfast quiches, sandwiches and burritos, soups, salads and wraps,” says Horn. “We use local produce, apples and cider, eggs, cheeses and bulk honey. We mix and match stuff.”
The Horns also operate Happy Horn’s Market and Orchard, where they raise produce that they sell at 2 farmers markets and a few restaurants. Horn also manages the farmers markets and is a strong promoter of locally produced foods. Kolstad-DeVaney sells pretzels and other baked goods at the markets.
“We wanted another outlet where we could offer our produce daily, so having our own shop and kitchen gave us that outlet,” says Horn. “Then we stepped back a little and decided to feature products from other area farmers, too.”
Even before the pandemic, the business was much more than just a cafe for local residents and food producers. Customers could buy eggs by the plate or by the dozen out of a walk-up cooler. Sandwiches and salads could be ordered at the counter or selected from the cooler. A large drum of honey lets customers take it home by the pint, quart or gallon.
“Since COVID, we have focused more on the grab-and-go convenience items,” says Horn. “Overall, we’ve seen a big growth in appreciation for local products.”
Horn encourages other food producers to follow suit. “We’ve seen more and more growers opening up farm stands for on-site purchasing, pre-orders, and home deliveries,” he says. “I would suggest trying a cafe outlet like ours. With the right plan, it can definitely work out.”
The biggest challenge, he adds, is finding enough time in the day. “We started from scratch and did everything ourselves,” says Horn.
“We are thinking about how the Free Range Exchange could serve as a hub, perhaps forming a co-op with other growers to provide a food box of locally produced items.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Free Range Exchange, 46 Main St., Hokah, Minn. 55941 (ph 507 894-1111; benjiman@freerangeexchange.biz; www.facebook.com/freerangeexchange/).

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #6