The College of Idaho on Business

Scott Johnson: Like farmers, Caldwell cafe owners build community

Director of the College of Idaho's Business and Accounting DepartmentJuly 16, 2014 

Johnson, Scott

Scott Johnson

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

A July 6 Statesman article, "Kids These Days," described what some people think is a lack of work ethic in members of the millennial generation who "don't feel like they have to work." At the College of Idaho, students raised in agricultural and livestock family cultures certainly understand the value of exerting effort, where nothing comes easily or automatically. For farmers, ranchers and growers, there's no way to glide through on autopilot: individuals must take initiative, and communities must work together.

The Statesman article also notes that younger Idahoans aren't "putting down roots" to stay here. Why?

Although my life has involved urban globetrotting, my own roots were nurtured by prior farming generations: my mom's parents in Oregon City (summers spent collecting eggs and moving bales), and my dad's parents in Marsing (who bought him a plot to grow sugar beets after World War II). I marvel at Dad's effort farming in his "spare time" while attending the College of Idaho. I walk to campus.

The College of Idaho is proud of our deep and long-lasting agricultural roots. The J.R. Simplot Co. has been a generous campus benefactor, and supporters like Symms Fruit Ranch and Crookham Co. continue their involvement through fourth and fifth generations. Such roots extend far (for Crookham, over six continents), but are anchored deeply at home.

We also need to take care to cultivate new roots in the C of I's neighboring community. An appropriate metaphor suggests a few buds sprouting through bare patches in the Caldwell city center, like tiny stalks bursting through sidewalk cracks.

Yes, there are some noxious weeds that need clearing. But several of our downtown business owners are persisting, and even expanding, to create fertile fields.

The Bird Stop Café is one such inspiring example of hard work and perseverance. Matt and Karen Kelly raised 10 kids in the Greenleaf countryside, and now this close-knit blended family provides coffee breaks for local workers, showcases live music in a safe and welcoming space, and connects various neighborhood groups into a robust social network.

The Kellys share optimism about what downtown Caldwell can become again. While there is not yet a substantial infrastructure of family dining or trendy nightspots to draw more shoppers and "hoppers," the Kellys are "banking" on continued growth by purchasing and refurbishing the historic Caldwell Banking and Trust Co. building on 7th and Main in the Steunenberg Block. They are preserving and respecting continuity with past generations, while helping to lead a resurgent Caldwell into the future.

The Kellys also possess the typical farmer's hardened humility that strikes a balance between individual initiative and a communal "barn-raising" approach to building a stronger community. You won't hear them talking up their own accomplishments or bad-mouthing anyone else. See more of what the Kellys are doing on Facebook (there is only one Bird Stop) - and come on down for a good cup, a tasty nibble, and a lively chat or tune. Let's cultivate those roots.

sajohnson@collegeofidaho.edu; 459-5219

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