Meet Our Cafe Supervisor: Nicole Hankinson
Nicole's passion for food began at a young age. Growing up, she enjoyed helping her grandma with her garden and baking in the kitchen. Her grandma grew flowers and vegetables like green beans. The first time Nicole tasted one of those fresh green beans, she fell in love.
Career Path & Farming Beginnings
Nicole is a native to the Pittsburgh/Southwestern Pennsylvania area and has extensive experience in the local food scene. She cares about local food systems and the promotion of organic sustainable farming. Holding a Master’s degree in Food Studies from Chatham University and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science from the University of Pittsburgh, she focused her research on food access issues, but understanding local food systems and farming issues were also key components in her food studies.
Her first farm-related experience was an internship with Farm Truck Foods, a local mobile farmers market organization. She then moved on to work with Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance as an Operations Assistant where she picked up produce from local farms, repackaged the produce, and lastly delivered the produce to local restaurants. Later, Nicole became a Cheesemaker at Cherish Creamery, whose company name you may recognize because Cherry Valley Organics partners with this farm by using their products in our Café and including their products in our Farm Share program. Nicole has also interned at Wigle Whiskey & Westmoreland County Food Bank, volunteered at Phipp’s Conservatory, and worked at Goat Rodeo, Fabled Table, and Narcisi Winery.
Nicole’s Role at CVO & Thoughts on Organic Food
Currently our Café is open Thursdays through Sundays. On Thursdays, Nicole arrives early in the morning to brainstorm the weekly specials. The weekly specials are determined by what vegetables and produce our farm team have dropped off during the week for the Café to utilize. Our Café truly is farm to table with the freshest organic ingredients we can harvest! Specials sometimes even change from day to day due to the quantity of produce that was harvested and is available.
“I’m excited to take on the role of Café Supervisor at Cherry Valley Organics Farm Market and Cafe. I am a soup enthusiast. One of my primary responsibilities is to turn the fresh, organic, produce from the farm into soup and salads which I love to do,” Nicole explains.
Once Nicole has her plan, she starts to prep the produce to make salads, soup, simple syrups, and more. “Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables to work with because of how versatile they are, but I also love working with zucchini,” says Nicole. She plans on adding new items to the menu in the future!
Nicole believes there is room for the Café to expand by maximizing what the farm grows, like adding edible flowers on top of beautifully prepared salads for an Instagram worthy photo opt! While our current window ordering takeout service (with outdoor seating available) is working efficiently during the pandemic, Nicole does miss the direct interactions with customers because of their feedback. (For now, you could provide feedback on our Google business page instead!)
Nicole continues to says that, “It is a challenge that I am the only team member working in the kitchen at the Café since we are a small company. There is no one else with cooking experience at the Cafe to quickly collaborate with or ask for input and advice. I like having a second opinion and Heather, our Sales & Marketing Specialist, has stepped up and become an ‘honorary taste tester’ and cashier at the Café.”
“I’m happy to be working for Cherry Valley Organics, a company that aligns with my personal values. I’ve been a long-time supporter and lover of the company’s products. I also know both Allie and Emily (who has decided to get more experience working on the farm), who I met through Chatham’s Food Studies program. The team on the farm works hard every day to grow organic food, flowers, and herbs for the local community and I’m proud to be a part of this team by preparing and providing those products to our very supportive customer base.”
Nicole loves cats, yoga, cooking, and trying new teas. She even forwent purchasing a sofa for her new apartment, and instead, changed the living room into a personal yoga studio for herself and close friends!
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