Café will be teaching, learning place for young people gaining a foothold on life

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Chef Damon Schwab, left, and Cafe Manager Samara Davis are pictured near the gelato cabinet inside the AntFarm Cafe, which is planning a soft opening Thursday at 4 p.m. The new cafe will be open each day during the Festival weekend.Another era is about to begin in Sandy. The soft opening of the AntFarm Café is planned for 4 p.m. Thursday, July 11.

This café is expected to grow into an establishment unlike any other in Sandy.

Not only is it a learning institution for young people, but the people working in the café will be growing some of the produce that is served in the café.

The AntFarm Café is a brainstorm of Café Chef Damon Schwab. The idea is to create another connection between the area’s elders and its youths.

Schwab and Café Manager Samara Davis say this café is not in competition with other cafés in Sandy. For example, the menu will not be complete — although it will grow over time.

Besides the organic produce from the garden that AntFarm youths are raising and harvesting for the café (and selling at Sandy’s Saturday market), they will have organic coffee and tea, gluten-free products and other vegan choices that one would find on a healthy-choice menu.

Schwab is perfect as a chef, Davis said, but she adds he is good at anything.

“This (café) was his idea,” she said. “I call him the wizard in the background because of the way he (organizes) everything: the menus, and what he plans. He’s very particular, and he has certain ideas to carry out.

“And his cooking is phenomenal. We’ve done a couple of (meetings with food) for Kiwanis and the chamber, and they can’t wait (for the café to open) because he’s such a good cook.”

Davis has a degree in health science with emphasis in youth psychology and holistic medicine. After graduating from Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.), she continued volunteering in the community while working in food service, including fine dining. She also has managed other businesses.

The character trait that will carry her through the challenges of this job, she says, is persistence.

“I’m here and I want to be here,” she said, “and I’m going to make this happen.”

The café will be equipped with old-looking tables recently built, including a large community table for groups or meetings and some smaller tables for small gatherings and small families.

Amenities at the café include organic coffee and tea, homemade bread baked by Schwab in AntFarm ovens, gluten-free and vegan items, custom gelato, and free Wi-Fi.

The coffee is from Nossa Familia, a family that owns a roaster in Portland and the coffee plantation in Brazil. The tea is from Jasmine Pearl in Portland.

Asked to name one special food on the AntFarm menu, Davis says it is “very special gelato flavors.”

Davis says it is the food that will bring people back to the cafe time after time.

“(Schwab) is a chef extraordinaire,” she said. “He’s a mastermind in the kitchen.”

Also drawing local residents to the unique and growing café is what Davis called “the spirit of AntFarm and the energy of its youths.”

She also said local residents will like the idea of the community of young people the nonprofit group has created.

Word of the concept of AntFarm has spread around the country as well as in other countries, said three-year volunteer and board member Kim Wheeler.

“Because AntFarm is so unique, we have people calling from all over,” Wheeler said. “They’re hearing about us — even overseas. It’s amazing (the people who call) are wanting to copy this. The key thing is knowing that we’re here to support kids.”

Besides Schwab and Davis, there will be youth interns working in various areas of the café — more when the operation moves past its soft opening and employees have been fully trained in food services.

“We’ll have six youths who will rotate in (to service). They’ll get training as a barista or in the café or bakery and earn their food-handlers card.”

Then, the youths rotate out and return to work in AntFarm’s Axis Learning Center to create a resume or finish credits toward the GED.

“The café will be a learning/teaching area,” Wheeler said, as well as a comfortable area where people in the community can come and have conversations and connect with the kids.”

The internship program in the café should be operational by the time school begins in the fall, Davis said. By that time, too, the café hours are likely to change.

A grand opening time, Davis said, will be chosen for sometime in August.

The AntFarm Café is located at 39140 Proctor Blvd., and this weekend is open from 4-10 p.m. Thursday and from 10 a.m. to

5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, visit the café or call 503-668-9955.

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