After more than 50 years in the restaurant industry, my wife Monica and I constantly talk about what we can do to help our community grow and transform the food industry. With the ability to be environmentally proactive and work within our local food system, we were convinced that opening a fine dining restaurant on our own State College farm was the right thing to do and the right thing to do. time to do it. We were deeply convinced that our city would benefit from a gastronomic concept that would be an educational environment and a gathering place not only for restaurateurs, but for the whole community. So we bought Windswept Farm in 2017 and opened RE Farm Cafe in July 2019. Just as things were changing, the pandemic hit.
I’m not going to lie, times were tough. And without the decisive stimulus efforts of President Biden and other Democrats in Congress, we would still be in a world of pain. Certainly our RE Farm Cafe in Windswept would not have survived without the federal assistance we received.
Financial support from President Biden’s US bailout and other federal funding not only allowed us to keep our highly trained farm and cafe staff working, but also contributed to improvements to provide dining options. additional outdoor and farm efficiency. Our own Windswept Farm provides more than half of the food for the cafe, and nearly all of the other food comes from other farms.
The availability of domestically-sourced operational goods, such as take-out containers, gloves, masks and others, was sometimes difficult, but recent measures taken by the President to mitigate supply chain issues have helped us to to succeed. President Biden refuses to sit on the sidelines while small businesses feel the pain of shipping delays, which is why the White House has taken further steps to continue shipping progress. Whether it’s removing cumbersome fees for truck drivers or relieving port congestion by encouraging quick container pick-up, extending opening hours and ensuring shipping containers don’t sit in ports and slow progress, these changes mean a world of difference for small businesses like ours. Without the decisive action of President Biden and this administration, I don’t know where we would be.
Our challenges are not unique for a small business, luckily we were better positioned than many. Things like our filtered ventilation, easily sanitized surfaces and, most importantly, well-trained and customer-safety-minded staff, put us in the best possible position to weather the storm. Our design decisions allowed for operational flexibility as we responded to the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic, but we still needed a nudge and strong federal support during these difficult times. It seemed almost daily, we had to reinvent ourselves to be resilient. Because RE Farm Cafe is part of a 57 acre working farm with livestock, it was never possible to just close the doors and abandon the animals, the cafe supports the farm financially and we wanted to be there for our employees and our community.
Over the past 18 months, small business owners have proven themselves everywhere. It is not easy to provide living wages, health care and retirement benefits to workers while remaining competitive with big business. Many have been laid off and others have had to close their doors. We were fortunate at RE Farm to use President Biden’s US bailout funds through Center County’s Disaster Relief Program to stay afloat through tough times.
We want to see other small businesses thrive like us. As Republicans continue to root against the economy, President Biden and Democrats have taken action to strengthen our supply chains and reduce costs for American families. In a historic step to further prepare businesses for success, the bipartisan Presidential Infrastructure Act will rebuild, expand and improve the infrastructure of our ports and rail lines, which will continue to advance our supply chain capabilities, create more jobs and lower prices.
Washington lawmakers talk a lot about serving small business, but for too long in this country, the interests of big business and the ultra-rich have come first. Finally it changes. When you invest in small businesses, you are investing in hardworking families and local communities like ours here in Happy Valley.
Duke Gastiger is the mLLC member manager of RE Farm Café and Windswept Farm.