West Virginia’s Fruits of Labor Cafe was one of the state’s first farm-to-table establishments. It’s a place where American cuisine is carefully and healthfully prepared with ingredients from a 218-acre farm. Open only for lunch, its simple, fresh dishes include soups, sandwiches, and salads.
The Fruits of Labor bakery provides the foundation for many dishes — crafting buns for hamburgers, the dough for pepperoni rolls (a West Virginia staple), and buttery croissants to hold their chicken salad. Dessert options include French cream horns, pumpkin sweet rolls, and German chocolate cake. Patrons can take home blueberry muffins, wheat rosemary sourdough loaf, or spinach asiago cheese bagels.
But Fruits of Labor is providing more than good food.
They have an express mission to give hope to folks in recovery from substance use disorder and have developed a training program with long-term employment and recovery success, all at no cost to participants.
As stated on their website, “Each purchase is a personal, tangible investment in the growth and nurturing of people…who demonstrate the daily courage it takes to overcome addiction.”
A Love of Farming, and a Desire to Combat Hopelessness
Tammy Jordan dreamed of owning a farm from the time she was five years old. She began Fruits of Labor in 2001 alongside her work in agricultural research for the USDA. In 2008, she took a leap of faith to commit full-time to the business.
That same year, Jordan had an experience that irrevocably changed the trajectory of Fruits of Labor. While visiting Alderson prison, Jordan saw first-hand the sense of hopelessness among the prisoners and was determined to do something about it. “I asked myself what I have at my disposal to help women in reentry,” she said.
After three years of research and planning, Fruits of Labor emerged as a social enterprise with a clear mission. “It was a very different landscape then,” she said. “There weren’t very many models for farm-to-table cuisine or recovery employment training.”
So, Jordan and her team developed their own. Two of the keys to their success are offering both professional and personal growth opportunities and providing services over an extended period of time — up to two years. This semester they have twenty-five students enrolled in their educational and training employment opportunities.
“We focus on reengaging in a safe and nurturing work environment,” she said. “It can make a big difference (to people in recovery) to have someone believe in them when it is difficult for them to believe in themselves.”
The business is still, at its core, a food business but has expanded to provide more opportunities for students. Fruits of Labor now includes a nationally certified Culinary & Agricultural Training Center, catering and event planning services, and three cafes, with the fourth scheduled to open this summer. Students can earn certificates or gain expertise in sustainable agriculture, culinary arts, baking, and cake design.
The Program Works, Too
Fruits of Labor is making an impact. Graduating from the program significantly increases participants’ recovery success rate. Typically, 50% of drug court participants achieve long-term recovery; 90% of participants in the Fruits of Labor program do. It has another — harder to measure — benefit for the community, too. Some of the cafe regulars are mothers who have lost their children to overdoses. Seeing the children of other mothers in recovery gives them a measure of comfort and hope.
Jordan says the community response to the mission is overwhelming. When she posted on Facebook about the cafe expansions, the post organically reached 40,000 views within 24 hours. Guests are known to drive two hours to dine, and tourists who walk in by happenstance often make plans to return.
Placing Cafes in Small Communities
Patrons have to seek-out Fruits of Labor Cafes. All three are in communities of around 1,500 people and up to two hours from Charleston — Rainelle, Alderson, and Montgomery, West Virginia. As a social enterprise, they turn the traditional model of choosing a restaurant location on its head. Jordan looks at factors like access to child care, recovery support, and housing, not just the possibility for revenue.
Their first location, Rainelle, was chosen for its proximity to the farm, but Jordan continues to seek out smaller communities that are in the beginning stages of revitalization. “We want to be an anchor in these communities for not only economic development, but for spreading hope to a place for whom growth seems difficult. Our cafes generate excitement and opportunity.”
Opening a small rural business has its challenges. Fruits of Labor lost its entire training center, two years after it was built, in a 1,000-year flood event. Then they had to plan to open three new cafes during a global pandemic. How has Jordan and her team persevered? “My parents trained me in enduring difficult times,” she said. “I was 21 years old and didn’t know to think about failure.”
A Model for Recovery-Friendly Work Culture
Fruits of Labor is intentionally a for-profit social enterprise, with Jordan as the sole shareholder. They rely on their revenue stream as the stable foundation for supporting their mission. From that platform, they can speak to other businesses about the opportunity to engage in the recovery process in their communities.
This unique model for supporting recovery is over a decade old and Jordan and her team want to share what they have learned with others. They established Communities of Healing, a 14-week training about recovery-friendly work culture that targets 20 food and agricultural businesses a year. “A business is designed to gather and a mission is designed to give,” said Jordan. “We are articulating how the two can coexist. Through social enterprise, businesses can seek additional opportunities to be impactful in communities.”
Whether through a welcoming cafe, an exquisitely crafted wedding cake, or a gathering for business leaders, Jordan brings everyone to the table to celebrate, support, and empower those in recovery.
Easy At-Home Pepperoni Rolls
Even though Fruits of Labor makes their own dough for their popular pepperoni rolls, Jordan shares this technique with her students for when they just can’t find the time at home.
- Thaw frozen dough ball in the fridge overnight.
- Roll out dough ball with your hands.
- Add eight pieces of pepperoni and shredded mozzarella.
- Roll up, cover with wrap with non-stick spray, and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
- Bake at 375 degrees in a standard oven for about 12 minutes until golden brown.