Tess Lustbaum on What it Takes to Create a Closed-Loop Café with Campesino

“Now people will be able to build community through having a place to gather. We can talk and learn and eat and be inspired by what The Ecology Center is doing, all at the same time!”

Here at The Ecology Center, our culinary team is responsible for more than just serving up delicious dishes crafted from our farm’s Regenerative Organic Certified™ produce. They also play an important role in helping us reduce the amount of waste generated by our farm operation.

As an apprentice within our culinary program, Tess Lustbaum is involved in both of these creative endeavors. Along with finding ways to present and preserve the wide variety of ingredients grown on our farm, Tess will be a major part of helping us meet our goal of maintaining a closed-loop food and beverage model with Campesino Café, allowing us to nourish our community as well as our ecology at the same time.

Read our conversation with Tess below, and click here to contribute to our crowdfunding campaign and help bring our vision of Campesino to life.

Describe some of your day-to-day duties in your role. What do you enjoy most? What do you find most challenging?

My day-to-day duties are processing all of the farm’s excess produce that is about to go bad and preserving it in one way or another. It’s very challenging, but I enjoy learning from our team and being inspired by the preserving methods they come up with. I am mainly involved in cooking the jams, pickling veggies, making pesto and other yummy spreadable condiments.

How do you see yourself helping build capacity and value for what The Ecology Center is doing? 

I work with an amazing team to come up with ways of preserving all varieties of produce and then to put those ideas into tangible forms that people can take home and enjoy in their own kitchens. Even if someone doesn’t end up buying one of our pantry items, maybe it will inspire them to come up with their own ways of preserving their own food that is about to go bad. The push for generating less waste starts with leading by example.

How does your function make a difference within the ecology of our Village? 

My function is to create even more abundance beyond the produce alone. I am overwhelmed by the amount of waste we humans generate. By helping to find solutions to make sure that everything grown at the Ecology Center is being used in one way or another, I feel like I am part of the connective tissue of change. I also help by having conversations with visitors, answering any questions they have, or even sharing recipe ideas. The farm kitchen attracts a lot of people—because who can resist the smell of yummy food cooking?—making it a good platform to share our knowledge and help inspire others.

What other departments/initiatives does your work connect with?

The culinary department works with almost every department on the farm, so we are all very intertwined. The farm team lets us know what is going to be ready to harvest soon, while the produce team lets us know what needs to be used up first—this lets us know what recipes to start preparing for. Then, after we have created a product, we share it with the Farm Stand team to get feedback. We talk about what is in each product and how it was made, so they can pass that information on to the customers. It’s really fun being able to work with so many different teams and see how each person plays such an important role in the creation of each product. It really does take a whole village for everything to run the way it does!

How do you see the purpose that Campesino Café will serve within the Village?

The café is a gathering space, a place for people to hang out and chat with other like-minded people looking for a good healthy meal, or with team members to learn about what is going on on the farm. I feel like most people who come to the farm are looking for that place to sit down and take everything in. Now people will be able to build community through having a place to gather. We can talk and learn and eat and be inspired by what The Ecology Center is doing, all at the same time!

When you imagine the completed café, what are you most excited about?

I am most excited about seeing all of the amazing produce turned into beautiful meals for people to enjoy. We have a really talented culinary team that knows how to bring out the best in what we have, and I am excited to watch the food we grow complete its full cycle: from watching it spring out through the soil, to being harvested and cooked with lots of love and intention, and then to being enjoyed by our community. It’s the kind of relationship we should all have with our food!