The Farmhouse Kitchen : Building Healthy Food Awareness One Plate at a Time
Feb 24, 2018 07:30PM
● By Sheila Julson
As one of eight siblings, Martie Samuel grew up cooking large family dinners and experienced the social connections of food and good company. She brings that ambiance to The Farmhouse Kitchen, the juice bar and café she owns, which, in addition to serving organically grown foods, also serves as an educational resource and opens dialogue about where food comes from, and why it matters.
Before moving to Wyomissing in sixth grade, Samuel lived in Michigan and Ohio. She rode horses during her youth, and throughout her college years during the 1970s, Samuel was involved in athletics and developed an interest in healthy foods, despite the growing dominance of convenience foods during that decade.
Inspired by a love of horses, Samuel formed and operated a commercial equestrian business for almost 40 years. In 2013, she met Joel Moceri, an athlete in West Reading, who shared her passion for healthy foods. They considered ideas for opening a wellness related business and decided on a juice bar and café, which led to The Farmhouse Kitchen.
Since opening this past June, Samuel says The Farmhouse Kitchen has been well received by the community. “Our staff has tremendous creativity and enthusiasm for what we do, and they’re invested in the healthy, sustainable lifestyle,” she says. Moceri currently serves as Director of Business and Community Development.
Regardless of titles, all employees at The Farmhouse Kitchen have a seat at the table to voice ideas and share creativity. Baristas at the juice and coffee bar have latitude to develop drinks and juices according to the season or to meet customers’ needs. “If a customer wants to try a new super food or a health shot, we explain each one and what they do. There’s a lot of customer participation,” Samuel says.
Kitchen manager Tracy Sustello and her team develop the recipes. The entrées feature ingredients sourced from farms and vendors primarily within 10 miles (or further during winter). “We go the farms and pick up the eggs and meat,” Samuel says. “You won’t see a Sysco truck pull up here.” By visiting farmers markets and touring farms, Samuel established relationships with local vendors and farmers that use organic growing methods and raise grass-fed livestock and free-range hens. Samuel will not use genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. Their area vendors include Eat-Mo-Greens, Meadow Run Farm, Goose Lane Egg Farm, Bent Limb Farm, The Daily Loaf Bakery and Oak Nut Farm.
Sustainable practices aren’t limited to the food; kitchen staff use chemical-free pots and pans that will not off-gas. They have a reverse osmosis water system, and there is no microwave oven on premises. Soft incandescent lighting illuminates the cozy 20-seat interior space. Samuel says LED lighting, while more energy efficient, can actually damage eyes. A local artisan crafted the tables from barn wood. “It’s fashioned after a farmhouse I lived in for 20 years, hence the name The Farmhouse Kitchen,” Samuel says.
Education Coordinator Courtney Shober leads weekly classes covering topics such as alternative wellness providers, sustainability and gardening. In the dining room, customers can peruse bookcases stocked with books about wellness, antiques and other topics. “It’s rare to see someone come in here and stare at their electronic devices,” Samuel enthuses. “It’s an old-time place where people come to meet friends and family, and actually talk to each other. We’re recapturing the social experience of food.”
More than just a restaurant, The Farmhouse Kitchen serves as a hub of wellness and brings back a sociable ambiance that helps create a sense of community. “I think people want to be more responsible for themselves and are looking for information,” Samuel says. “I hope that as we move forward, we can continue to impact the healthy food conversation.”
The Farmhouse Kitchen is located at 426 Penn Ave., West Reading. For more information, call 484-869-5193 or visit TheFarmhouse-Kitchen.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.