Tricia Houston is bringing a fresh idea to Boone County.

The owner of Napoleon Ridge Farm in Gallatin County, Houston is relying on her farming roots and the network of farmers providing locally sourced food to serve up a farm-to-table-style restaurant in Union. The restaurant, The Farmstand Market and Café, will feature a full menu of regular and seasonal entrees as well as a retail store featuring locally produced foods including meats, jams, spices and bakery items.

Tucked away in the heart of Union, the red and black building gives off a barn-like vibe, something that wasn’t lost on Houston as she sought out a location for what she hopes will foster an appreciation for cottage products and clean eating. During a tour of the building and grounds, Houston’s passion for the project is evident as she points out the areas that will become the retail shop, the bar, the children’s education center and the gardens. When a new patch of violets catches her eye, she immediately stoops to inspect them, picking just one.

“Did you know violets are edible?” she asks before popping it into her mouth.

The violets, which grow on a tiny patch of ground on the side of the building, will be used in seasonal salads. Other small, tiny even, gardens will grow other herbs and berries.

“We want to showcase what can be done on a small amount of land,” says Houston whose role in the venture is part farmer, part chef and part teacher.

The restaurant, which isn’t scheduled to open until early summer, may already sound familiar to Northern Kentuckians who’ve visited The Friendly Market in Florence. Houston set up shop there last summer under the same name and developed quite a following with her meatloaf, Reuben sandwich, bacon-glazed Brussels sprouts and chicken quesadilla, all drawing praise in online reviews.

“We are forging relationships and developing community support. Union is a small area mileage wise but it feels pretty tight knit. What I’m trying to do is put myself in the best place for success,” says Houston. “The plan is to make this a destination spot because people don’t have enough options. I already have a clientele who know who I am. It’s a good tie back.”

While the Friendly Market provided an avenue for selling her own clean cooking, a brick-and-mortar home base provides a central location for even more possibilities—additional menu items, support of more local farms and culinary entrepreneurs, cooking classes for kids and adults seeking to enhance their kitchen skills, and a teaching center. More than a restaurant, The Farmstand Market and Café is meant to be a central location for a wide variety of culinary education opportunities and a place where Houston can educate others on what local farms and producers have to offer.

“There are very few small, family-owned restaurants in this area; it’s all fast food. But this is the anti-sports bar. It’s anti-fast food. It’s a family place,” Houston says.

Celebrity chef Loreal Gavin, better known as the Butcher Babe from Food Network Star, Season 10, has already agreed to hold a cooking demonstration and a signing of her newly released cookbook, The Butcher Babe’s Cookbook, once the restaurant opens.

“It’s an honor. Tricia is an angel,” says Gavin.

While the farm-to-table movement is growing across the country, the followers provide a devoted, almost familial, community. A variety of networks bring small farmers and buyers together and make the farm-to-table process possible. After spending most of her adult life in Vermont and upstate New York, Houston settled in Gallatin County in 2001. She quickly fell in love with all Kentucky had to offer, most notably its rich farming community, which leant itself to her love of natural food cultivation and preparation.

“Because I’ve been part of the farm-to-table community for years, I already have relationships with local farms,” says Houston. “It’s important to support the local agricultural community. This will allow me to partner with the entire network of local farms. I will be supportive of them and they will be supportive of us.”

Through the Ohio Valley Food Connection (OVFC), an online marketplace for local farmers and chefs, Houston has sold a variety of vegetables, herbs and meats from her farm while purchasing from others to create a mouthwatering menu of entrees, side dishes and decadent desserts that she sold through The Farmstand Market’s Friendly Market location and through her catering business, The Farm Girl Chef. She’s now ready to take it to the next level.

“[Farm to table] is important for many reasons. First, 100 percent of the money goes back to the community. That’s important, but more importantly, the food you are getting is harvested to order. The day you order it, your food is still in the ground. And nutritionally and taste-wise there is no comparison. Often it is just as inexpensive as the supermarket and it stays fresh longer because it is fresh,” says Alice Chalmers, who founded OVFC in 2015. “We love working with Tricia. She’s both a grower and a buyer. She understands the value and knows how to use the ingredients.”

Houston hopes to help bring the OVFC experience to the masses by becoming a pickup location for households wanting to buy locally grown and made ingredients but needing a more convenient option to do so than the local farmers market. Individuals can visit the OVFC site to select and order their desired items, pay online and pick up at a selected location. Currently, The Gruff restaurant in Covington is the only pickup location in Kentucky. Several other pickup sites are offered in Cincinnati.

“In order for locally sourced to really grow, you need to make it more mainstream. Busy two-income families don’t have time for farmers markets,” says Chalmers. “[The Farmstand Market and Café] would be our second pickup spot in Kentucky—it’s such a vibrant farming community.”

Houston’s plans feel both modern and like a throwback to a simpler time. Finishing the tour, she describes the communal farm table that will be the centerpiece of the dining room, but soon changes the subject to Sunday brunch, describing in detail the farm-fresh egg strata, the breakfast burritos and the freshly baked breads. While her enthusiasm for her restaurant venture is apparent, it is clear that her passion is the food.

Once open, the restaurant will feature a menu supporting locally sourced foods with indoor and outdoor seating; cooking classes and demonstrations; grab-and-go, heat-at-home family meal options; catering; a retail store featuring foods and textiles; outdoor gardens and learning centers; and agriculture-related artwork by local artists.

The Farmstand Market and Café will be located at 9914 Old Union Road. For up-to-date information on the opening, visit The Farmstand Market and Café Facebook page.

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