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GroShed enables Knob and Kettle Restaurant to offer fresh, local produce options

The Knob and Kettle Restaurant in Lake Alice Township, Minn., is working to provide fresh and local produce with the help of a new four-season GroShed.

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Knob and Kettle Restaurant owners Lois Holleman and Shayna Connell harvest lettuce on July 27, 2022, from their new four-season GroShed.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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In a bright space filled with green leaves and the aroma of growing plants, Shayna Connell explained an exciting new development for the Knob and Kettle, a restaurant in Lake Alice Township, just outside of Itasca State Park — the arrival of a state-of-the-art, four seasons GroShed.

Complete with heads of lettuce, herbs and ripening tomatoes, the restaurant’s new GroShed will provide the business, which Connell owns with her husband Joshua Holleman and his mother Lois Holleman, year-round access to fresh produce grown, quite literally, right next door.

“It’s still very new. It’s going to take us a couple of months to fall into a rhythm of how long things are going to take and how much we can harvest,” Connell shared. “Eventually, getting 30 to 50 pounds (of produce) a week out of it is my hope.”

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The Knob and Kettle Restaurant and Lounge is located at 35200 US-71 near Laporte.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

After opening in 2018 and struggling for years to source quality produce for the restaurant, a challenge further exacerbated by ongoing issues with supply chains, the Knob and Kettle owners began to look for alternatives.

“The lack of products and consistency really had us thinking about other ways to go about getting produce,” Joshua said. “It was a constant battle.”

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When they were able to source produce, it often had to travel long distances before arriving at the restaurant, another thing that the owners wanted to change.

“A lot of our produce was from South America when it's out of season, and then when it’s in season it’s coming from California,” Connell explained. “That was kind of the big drive, trying to get local, quality produce.”

The solution they landed on was the GroShed, a four-season, fully automated hydroponic greenhouse developed by a Minnesota company that would allow them to take matters into their own hands.

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Fresh lettuce grows on July 27, 2022, inside the Knob and Kettle Restaurant's new four-season GroShed.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Delivered in early July, the GroShed has already begun providing the Knob and Kettle with high-quality produce.

“The flavor is incredible because we’re not getting something that’s been sprayed or treated in any way. It hasn’t traveled for days to get where it is,” Lois said. “It’s here and it’s now.”

The benefits of local produce aren’t just felt by the restaurant’s patrons, either. Growing herbs and vegetables onsite has also been beneficial to the staff at the Knob and Kettle.

“Our staff has more pride, and our chefs are very happy to go out there and pick some herbs that they can add to stews and dishes,” Joshua said.

The GroShed is also just one of the ways the owners are working to source local food. The restaurant also has honeybees and recently planted 300 chokecherry, juneberry and wild plum trees alongside the road leading up to the Knob and Kettle.

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“Looking toward the future, we’d like to have more than just local lettuce. We’d like to have more local food in general, and be a little bit more sustainable,” Connell said.

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Knob and Kettle owner Shayna Connell harvests lettuce on July 27, 2022, inside the restaurant’s new four-season GroShed.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Community support

Working in the hospitality industry, and specifically in restaurants, isn’t new to any of the three owners of the Knob and Kettle.

“I grew up in the hospitality industry. My dad was a chef,” Joshua shared. “I guess I tried to get away a couple of times and it always sucked me back in.”

After starting with a food truck, and then two, Joshua and the others eventually decided to establish a more stationary presence with the Knob and Kettle.

“We wanted to provide the highest quality food and services that we could offer, and become an integral part of the Lake Alice community,” Lois explained.

In the almost five years since it opened, the Knob and Kettle has seen a lot of community support, particularly in the years following 2020, when many restaurants and small businesses have been struggling.

“It’s been hard for the whole industry the past two years,” Connell said, “but we made it.”

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Knob and Kettle owner Lois Holleman picks up a lettuce sprout on July 27, 2022, inside the restaurant's new four-season GroShed.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

That support has continued to the restaurant’s newest venture with its GroShed and efforts to source its own food.

“The people in this community are so happy for us, so proud that we’re doing this,” Lois said. “They’re taking ownership of it, in a sense, which is really great. They think it’s wonderful.”

For the owners of the Knob and Kettle, these recent changes are just small steps closer to perfecting what they hope to create with their restaurant: a welcoming, sustainable and comfortable place for community members and visitors alike to come for a delicious meal.

“We’re a long way from where we want to be, but we’re a long way from where we started,” Lois stated. “It’s going to be phenomenal.”

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Fresh lettuce grows on July 27, 2022, inside the Knob and Kettle Restaurant's new four-season GroShed.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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