A story of community and good food

I have always day-dreamed about having a few acres full of garden goodness, some chickens and a small orchard (of course the work involved isn’t really part of my fantasy).  But for now, I’ll make due with my small backyard garden, and wait impatiently to plant my tomatoes!

Today I read about an inspiring couple in Michigan with a passion for community gardening, and a unique way of supporting their local micro-farmers.

Every Friday, Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe turn their Ann Arbor home into the Selma Cafe — a “pay what you like” breakfast club where donations are put into a fund to provide hoop houses (like green houses) and micro-loans to local growers.  With the help of neighbor volunteers and guest chefs, they not only produce amazing breakfasts, but also help assemble the hoop houses to support the local agriculture economy. Jeff and Lisa’s passion, commitment and courage has helped their local community stay connected for over 3 years.


excerpt from the Michigan Daily – January, 2012

“My goal is that I want someone to come to Selma Café and feel (as though) they’ve been invited into our home for breakfast,” Gottlieb said.

Despite its low-key surroundings, Selma Café dishes up some of the highest-quality cuisine imaginable. The morning I visited the breakfast salon, chef Dan Vernia of The Ravens Club served traditional mincemeat pierogies and winter vegetable coulibiac.

Noticeably missing from the truly gourmet menu is the expected hefty price tag. Selma Café operates on a by-donation basis and Gottlieb said that the average donation is between $10 and $15 a person. A typical breakfast at Selma, Gottlieb said, could raise up to $1500.

One-third of this money is used to buy fresh, high-quality ingredients from local farmers that Ann Arbor’s best chefs use to create that Friday’s fare. The rest of the funds are allocated as micro-loans to local farmers to buy hoop house kits, another integral part of Selma Café’s mission.

Hoop houses allow farmers to grow food during all four seasons, extending the growing season exponentially and greatly increasing the availability of local produce. Selma Café volunteers install the hoop houses, keeping the cost minimal to farmers.

So far, Selma Café profits have helped to build 30 hoop houses in the surrounding community, with four built in Detroit.

Selma Café started as a party in its earliest days. The whole idea of a locally grown café got started when Gottlieb threw a breakfast party to celebrate McCabe’s 50th birthday in Feb. 2009. From the party, she said a “core group of people” who wished to continue the tradition developed.

It’s an unlikely start to an extraordinarily unique nonprofit organization, one that has fed thousands of Ann Arbor locals and assisted a number of local farmers.


Lisa and Jeff have the creativity, passion and courage to make a difference. They open their home weekly to bring neighbors together for a great meal, and provide a way for neighbors to help each other.  What a wonderful way to support your community!

Check out their web site at: http://www.repastspresentandfuture.org/site/fmselma/

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1 Response to A story of community and good food

  1. ansuyo says:

    What a great idea. Certainly a rarity in this day! Angie

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