A cafe in the Boulder Public Library is offering the community more than great coffee and mid-day snacks. ..as KGNU’s Elizabeth Avila reports, it’s a leader in promoting local and seasonal eating all year round.
From the outside Seeds Library Cafe seems like a typical coffee shop where people are placing orders and gathering around newspapers and magazines, but look a little closer and you will find that this business has an additional mission.
Matt Collier the General Manager of Seeds says they are a year round coffee shop and eatery that serves food cooked with local ingredients. The cafe located inside of the Boulder Public Library is part of the movement of local and seasonal eating that happens across the state.
“We’re owned by the farmer’s market, so we have a real tight knit relationship with quite a lot of farms which is quite nice. Our mission was … to have 75% of everything we brought in whether it was to cook or to sell it was either grown or produced in Colorado. i think we’re at a point now where we’re far exceeding that, closer to 90-95%.”
Limiting the menu to local, in-season produce comes with many challenges, but the cafe team is passionate and successful when it comes to creating the menu. To take seasonal eating a bit further for skeptical audiences, the cafe launched a monthly dinner series that offers more variety and experimentation than the day time menu.
“There are so many places where once Winter hits…they’re bringing in tropical fruits and…all their produce from California and that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. We don’t cook what we want to cook, we cook what is given to us by that time of the year…that is also why we are doing this dinner series in the Winter time when its more difficult for most people.”
Seeds started as a collaboration effort with the Boulder County Farmers Market and Collier says it maintains strong relationships with the people behind these local ingredients and products.
“As far as all the produce and all the animals, we just source from people that we know, which is the big thing. We’re all about, know your farmer, know how its raised. Don’t necessarily need labels all the time as far as ‘Organic’ as long as we know the farmer and know their practices and know what they’re putting out there then we’re happy to use it.”
Brian Coppom Executive Director of the Boulder County Farmers Market says the idea to maintain a year round presence of local and seasonal ingredients through an affordable café in the community came about with help from the Boulder County Farmer’s Markets which close shop during the Winter.
“One point in time we had learned about the RSP/RFP that boulder city put out to, have some kind of food concept on the bridge at the library. and we spoke with a couple of city officials and it sounded like a good opportunity for the farmers market to practice in a space that we talk a lot about but we don’t actually have a lot of experience in.”
An LLC was established and the cafe was launched under it with the Boulder County Farmers Market as a member. Coppon says Seeds moved into the library’s vacant space and started to chart its course for the success it is known for today.
“So one of the first objectives of opening Seeds was really to take a look at how difficult it is to source locally for a restaurant or a cafe. How difficult or creative one needs to be in order to cook with local produce. Essentially just, see, when we tell people you should eat more local to see what that really means for a business to attempt to do that, and, is it something that is profitable? Is it something that is easy? What are the challenges?”
One the challenges is to make the menu appealing and affordable on a large scale, from the county’s large student population to its affluent professionals and everyone in between. Another challenge says Coppom, was getting the word out about the café’s unique mission and helping people find their way to its off the beaten path location.
“I hope that at some point people really become more aware of it because there is such an incredible story behind using food that is grown here and what that means about where we’re sitting and how we’re meeting together and how we’re connecting.”
The cafe’s visitors sit near glass walls that are windows into the nature that surrounds Boulder library. The cafe’s placement and architecture make the experience even more unique for visitors and regulars like Ximena.
“I like coming to this cafe because of the windows. You feel like you’re in a treehouse sitting above the creek…Its a way of being outside but in.”
Seeds General Manager Matt Collier says the main goal of being in the library is to be a fun community space for people of all different backgrounds to come and enjoy a cup of coffee of locally sourced food.
“So our main goal here, especially being in the library is just to be a fun community space for people of all different backgrounds and all different economic standpoints can come whether its just a nice cup of coffee as well as food.. basically a good product at a good price. We want to make sure we can provide that to everybody that is able to come in. and day to day its just a lot of fun, i mean we have a beautiful view, its the best view I’ve ever had to work with, just looking over the boulder creek all day and its a lot of fun, a lot of happy people.”
In its almost 2 years of being open, Seeds Library Cafe in Boulder has met and exceeded its goal of creating seasonal food with majority locally grown ingredients. Seeds launched a catering service and dinner evenings to showcase these ingredients in new ways to new audiences. Moving forward the team hopes to continue learning how to make the Seeds model of locally sourced seasonal food a reality across the culinary community.