The blackberries are back at Elderslie Farm, and this year, its owners have been able to expand their seasonal cafe and reinstate their you-pick business.
Last July, I wrote a story about young farming couple George and Katharine Elder, who were running their tiny Bramble Days Cafe on George’s family farm near Valley Center. They’d been quietly opening for breakfast three days a week each summer since 2012 and had developed a small but loyal following.
When our story was published, complete with dreamy pictures of fresh-picked blackberries, rustic blackberry scones and an idyllic farm setting, the cafe went crazy, Katharine said.
“After the article, the numbers went kind of gangbusters,” she said.
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The cafe, which is about a 20-minute drive from Wichita, was packed every day it was open for the rest of the summer, and the couple’s farm-to-table dinner series sold out instantly.
The success has enabled the family to expand the business, and construction should be done when the cafe reopens on May 28.
The outdoor dining area has always been set up on the back patio of the Elderslie family farm house, and Katharine used the farmhouse kitchen to prepare the food. But George’s parents have agreed to have the back part of the house turned in to a commercial kitchen and more space for indoor dining for the farm-to-table dinners.
They’ve also expanded the back patio, where Katharine sells her scones, blackberries and yogurt, frittata and other fresh-made specialties. They’re finishing up a a larger covered patio that will allow seating to jump from around 80 to 140.
Until the kitchen is finished, likely in mid-July, Katharine will be cooking for the cafe in an off-site kitchen and won’t serve her egg dishes. She’ll also be putting off the start of the popular farm-to-table dinners, which accommodate about 36 people each and rely largely on food produced at the farm. Usually, they’d put on a spring series but must wait until the kitchen is done. They’ll likely offer late summer dinners, once the cafe closes, and extend the fall dinner series.
The cafe, which is on the farm at 3501 E. 101st St. North, Valley Center, will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting on May 28 and running through Aug. 6.
Another bit of big news for Elderslie Farm: The blackberries are back.
For the past two years, the blackberry bramble has not been producing well, and the family has not been able to open its you-pick business. The berries they did grow were used in the cafe.
This year, however, the bramble is strong and healthy, and the berries are growing in abundance. You-pick will begin in late May, too. People who want to pick while at the farm will need to register in advance at http://berry.eldersliefarm.com. Registration will start at the end of the month.
“It’s actually worked out really well,” Katharine said. “If we hadn’t had low years in the berries, I’m certain we wouldn’t have focused so much on the cafe and growing our hospitality stuff, and that’s what I adore. I love it. I love the people and I love the pace.”
George Elder, Katharine’s husband, also will resume his farm tours during cafe and you-pick hours this year. The 25-minute tours cost $1 and invite people to hop on a hay trailer fitted with a cooling mister and see the blackberry bramble and the farm’s baby goats.
Katharine said her customers seem to crave a not-too-far getaway that allows them to explore their Kansas roots and have a quiet, farmhouse experience.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “It’s something that you just can’t find in Wichita. I think people want to eat real food and eat real things.”
BRAMBLE DAYS CAFE
What: A farm-to-table breakfast spot that will be open from 7 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting on May 28.
Where: Elderslie Farm, 3501 E. 101st St. North, Valley Center, 316-519-1545