Sustainability in Isaac’s Café

By Kellie Hall

Isaac’s Café at Bernheim Forest has worked diligently for 18 years to be ecological stewards of the forest and our planet. It is our goal to serve guests wholesome, sustainably sourced foods while they relax and connect with nature.

The most vital sustainable practice in the Café is sourcing our produce and food products locally. Buying locally reduces the carbon footprint of food transportation and boosts the local economy. All our menu items feature Kentucky brands owned by passionate entrepreneurs. Most of our produce is grown in our Edible Garden on site at Bernheim.

When you order a Roasted Roots Wrap from the “Kentucky Proud Menu,” you will enjoy sweet potatoes from Elliott Brothers Farm located less than 15 minutes from Bernheim, and microgreens from Spade and Table, an organic farm in Louisville operated by Lisa Windhorst with assistance from her husband.

If you order the seasonal Green Bounty Soup, you’re nourishing your body with various leafy greens grown in the Edible Garden – just 200 steps from the Café, where you can see where our produce is grown. It’s cooked in vegetable broth made from our produce scraps and herbs picked fresh from the gardening boxes right outside our kitchen door.

Say you order a Nutty Bird and the seasonal Chickpea Tomato Sage soup to take on a picnic. The Nutty Bird features freshly shredded Norwood cheese from Kenny’s Farmhouse in Austin, KY with sliced turkey from Boone’s Butcher Shop in Bardstown, KY. The soup is loaded with canned tomato chunks from Windy Acres Farm in Berry, KY, hearty carrots and onions, and savory sage from the Edible Garden. The soup cup and spoon are made from plants and are commercially compostable.

The Café receives lots of compliments on the quality and freshness of our coffee. That’s because Isaac’s uses freshly roasted coffee beans from Cedar Grove Coffee House, which is is only 5 minutes from Bernheim – another large reduction of our carbon footprint.  We grind the beans in-house and visitors can enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a cold brew with milk, plant-based milks, and a variety of flavor add-ins.

This wonderful partnership began, as Guest Services Manager Debbie P’Pool-Midgett admits, “Because I went there every day and fell in love with their coffee!” Visit Cedar Grove Coffee House in Shepherdsville, KY (exit 116 off I-65).

If you treat yourself to a chocolate chip brownie from our case of baked goods made from scratch, you’re getting a dose of vegetables from the Edible Garden, too! The chocolate chip brownie recipe uses shredded zucchini to add  moisture. Resident baker Anna Noell-Clark appreciates the challenge of incorporating the Edible Garden in her baked goods. “Having the opportunity to use fresh produce forces me to be creative with the recipes I use and the baked goods we serve to customers,” says Anna. During harvest, we shred and freeze zucchini so we can have delicious brownies all year long.

Sustainability is the core of everything we do in the Café, and I’m always trying to improve these efforts. It’s important to me that we use produce grown on site by my good friends and volunteers. I love building partnerships with local farmers who are passionate about organic farming and sharing their harvest with us.

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