Trailblazers 2016: Tracy Singleton of Birchwood Cafe


Tracy Singleton // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The Birchwood Cafe isn’t a restaurant. I mean, sure, in the sense that it serves some of the most delicious waffles known to mankind, it’s a neighborhood cafe all right, and certainly one of the finest we have in these parts. But in the course of the last year, it has become obvious that the waffles are just window dressing—this business has remarkable aspirations. And that’s why Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton is a Trailblazer.

The Birchwood has been long known for supporting local farmers, and a relentless evangelism for responsible eating and a better, more transparent food system. But in 2016, fresh off a huge physical expansion, they’ve also expanded their community-building partnerships, and offered their customers a greater opportunity to chip in.

Earlier this year, Singleton instituted the “Birchwood Boost,” which has morphed the cafe into a fundraising arm for organizations that are working to solve critical, and often food-related, problems. The Boost involves big pushes, like fundraising dinners and special events to increase awareness, as well as subtle nudges, like asking customers to round up their purchases, and keeping information on the non-profit for diners to peruse in line.

Related Post: Climate Generation gets the Birchwood Boost

Their partners for 2016 have included Will Steger’s Climate Generation, the famed Arctic explorer’s educational initiative; Right To Know, which pushes for GMO labeling; Urban Roots; and the Land Stewardship Project. Their current partner, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, is a grassroots effort pushing for social and economic justice. Food and community. It’s one in the same.

Restaurants are where the rubber meets the road—where the consequences of our food system are actualized, where the problems manifest themselves, and where thought-leaders can work to begin changing the public’s perception of these issues. Singleton is trying to do no less than save the world from her corner of the Seward neighborhood, and has grown the Birchwood into an active agent for positive change. We’ll gladly eat a waffle to that.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.

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John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Senior Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in real life at various bar patios in South Minneapolis.