Root Cafe: Farm to table food in Temple

  • “I think people are becoming more aware of the value of the food and how’s its growing,” said Reed. “[We are inspired by] being able to live a very simple but also very rich life—simple, as it comes from the garden but it’s also very nourishing.” Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Reed prepares croissants in her new large sunlight-filled commercially licensed kitchen. Her customer-favorite croissant recipe is the only one she brought with her from Hilltop to The Root. “I knew it would be something that would bring people in,” said Reed. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  •  As a family, they renvovated the barn, adding windows and curating furniture to create a warm and welcoming community space. “Every nail you see on the floor we pounded in by hand,” said Maija. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • A family heirloom table provides a way for customers to interact with each other. The cafe is closed Thursday this week, but will be open Friday, Nov. 26th from 8 am to 3pm for live harp music, wreath making and nature crafts ($20 wreath). Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • “I think people are becoming more aware of the value of the food and how’s its growing,” said Reed. One hundred percent of the vegetables used and sold in the cafe are from either their gardens or local farmers.  Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Maija Massey and her mother Christie Reed, along with Reed’s son Kaiden Massey, manage the daily operations of the cafe. Reed is the mastermind behind the ever-changing menu and Maija works the gardens and manages the register during the day. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  •  Maija manages two greenhouses and is preparing them for the transition into cold weather. “It’s pretty much winding down for the winter,” she said. “There’s still a lot of plants—but just cold hardy ones.” Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • After a busy weekend, Maija relaxes with a cup of tea on Sunday morning. Reed said they hope to extend the cafe hours and days by springtime. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Carefully tended kale is almost done for the season. Maija is observing carefully how to work with the land and seasons to get the most beautiful produce out of the Root’s gardens. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Maija gathers fibers from the farm’s French Angora rabbits. “It’s warmer than Merino,” she said. Along with tending the gardens, she scythes the grass nearby for the rabbit’s food every morning. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  •  The Root Cafe and Farm Store is located at 93 NH-101 in Temple and after several years of renovation and planning is finally open a few days a week. “It’s amazing to see people appreciate all the energy and love that goes into this space,” said Reed. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Maija, who is 23 now, is in charge of the gardens. She grew up helping out at Hilltop and spent a few years traveling to remote areas and learning how to live simply and sustainably and “in harmony with nature,” a practice she brings to The Root. “I really like to observe things,” she said. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  •  “We are inspired by the intricate reaching form of the root system of a plant,” said Maija about the farm’s imagery and name. “Gathering and sharing life, connection, nourishment and strength; these qualities among others, resonated with us.” Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  •  “[Our customers] do see the little details, like how Maija bunches the herbs in a beautiful way,” said Reed. “That’s where our artist has to come out right now—we don’t have time to paint or draw so much, so it’s coming out in our work.” Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • New Ipswich residents, Damon Salo and Averi Dyer, meet with friends near the pellet stove seating area. Menu favorites include the croissant breakfast sandwiches and lattes during a full-house late Saturday morning. Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE

  • Staff photo by Emari Traffie—EMARI TRAFFIE “Seeing farmers markets and knowing that a lot of that produce they are hauling back might be going to compost—that is so sad to me,” said Reed. “Those farmers could bring it to me, I’ll buy it and I’ll turn it into something... so their labor isn’t lost. This is a place that excess can come through and be turned into added value.”

  • Staff photo by Emari Traffie

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/1/2021 1:22:50 PM
Modified: 12/1/2021 1:22:17 PM

In 2018, the former owners of the Hilltop, a farm-sustained cafe in Wilton, left a note on their tables notifying customers they had sold the restaurant and would be re-opening at an unknown point in the future in Temple.

“I used to go to Hilltop a lot,” said one of her long-time customers, Lacey Aho, of Rindge, “they had the best croissants that I had ever had, anywhere.”

Christie Reed helped start Hilltop Cafe in Wilton in 2011, and brought that croissant recipe with her when they closed in 2018. Around the same time she and her husband, Ben Reed, purchased a farm in Temple with the dream of creating a cafe and continuing to foster community.

“We both wanted to get more into growing food,” said Reed, “and knowing it’s hard to make a living as a farmer, we came up with the idea for the cafe and a community.”

Reed saw the space for the first time when it was home to the retail shop, Kindred Spirits. “You had to really see through to the vision,” she said. “Before that it was a cow barn — she had done quite a lot of work that we didn’t have to do.”

Large windows — an addition made by Reed — allow light to fill The Root, the much anticipated, and finally renovated, barn-turned-café and farm store.

She didn’t want a big opening. “We started out kind of slow at once a week from 10-3 on Saturday,” she said. “We have a lot of people who have been following us since we left Hilltop.”

Aho was one of those faithful followers anticipating Reed’s return. “In the letter, they said to follow their new venture, at The Root, on Instagram,” said Aho. She immediately followed, and waited “impatiently for updates.”

Word of mouth and a loyal following have kept the cafe, on Route 101, busy since she extended to her open days to Thursday through Saturday.

Retired farmer Vince Mamone is a customer and friend who Reed while she was still at Hilltop and he was still running his organic farm, Autumn Hill.

“I go there at least twice a week,” he said. “It’s like a meeting spot. You know how teenagers like to hang out at the mall — it’s like that. When I go there I run into several of my friends.”

The Root is designed with community in mind. A large table, an heirloom from Reed’s own home, is in the center of the space.

“Being able to see people sit down at the tables who don’t know each other and walk out smiling and talking...” Reed said it’s about connecting people.

Mamone meets his daughter, who is a public school teacher in Manchester, at the cafe weekly. “It’s a huge table,” he said. “When it’s popular on Saturdays, we’ll sit at one end of the table and end up starting a conversation with someone we have never seen before.”

The cafe isn’t just about connecting customers or even customers to farmers, but also about connecting farmers to each other.

“Farming can be an isolating and under appreciated experience” said Reed. “One of the farmers we work with walked through the woods carrying the potatoes he sold us. Rather than the lonely farmer, we want to create a culture where the farmer is the base. It’s a different form of economy.”

Reed operates the cafe with her children Maija and Kaiden Massey. When they moved to Temple from Portland, Ore., in 2009, she saw a need for community space around food in the area.

Maija said she feels like she grew up in the original Hilltop–babysitting her younger sibling, doing dishes and serving.

“I traveled around for a while doing farming and learning about simple living,” she said. She is still processing her experiences with First Nations tribes in remote areas of Canada and looking at ways to apply what she’s learned to how she works and lives on the farm.

“I’m really interested in learning how to live in harmony with nature,” she said. “I’ve been working on and observing this land for three years. I know the birds. I know where the water is flowing and what plants are already growing here.”

Maija’s desire to work with the earth has her in charge of the garden, her mother in the kitchen and Kaiden on the espresso machine. Reed’s husband did most of the renovation and took a step back once the cafe opened. “We all sort of help out with each element,” Reed said.

Their retired farmer friend, Mamone, offered Maija the opportunity to farm on his already fertile land.

“I talk to Maija and Christie a lot,” said Mamone. “We talk about mineralizing the soil using cover crops, minerals, and organic fertilizer to encourage healthy soil.” Last year, she harvested a crop of garlic and potatoes on the former Autumn Hill farm site.

“The healthier and more medicinal our food is, the healthier we will be,” said Reed. She’s specific about the farms she works with and wants to work with people who also value keeping the land healthy. Nutrition is always the basis for what Reed decides to make.

Her menu is influenced from all around the word but developed based on what is harvested from the garden that week. “I like to taste something I’ve had before, like a curry, and instead of getting the exotic ingredients, make it from what we have the farm.”

She offers an ever changing menu of farm-to-table prepared dishes, bakery and espresso. Her coffee beans, and some of Kaiden’s training, are from N.H. based A&E Coffee & Tea.

Reed has been updating her followers via social media and email newsletters.

“I’m sure they were so sick of me, because I was always messaging them asking for an update,” Aho recalled. “I’m so happy to see them open, and to see that they’re getting the following that they deserve.”

Reed plans to continue to develop the farm, foster relations with local farmers, and eventually extend the hours once she hires additional staff. Maija is anticipating opening trails for walking tours of the farm and developing the outdoor garden seating.

“I can’t wait until it’s fully opene d up with a full offer ing,” said Mamone. “With even more products from around the region — it’s going to be nice.”

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