“I have a big plan up my sleeve,” says Pat Nesberg Freeman, who realized a long-standing dream when she founded Rock River Café in 2009, a “vegan and gluten-free-friendly” family restaurant in the town of Chatham on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The restaurant is unique in that it fully supports sustainable and local food sourcing practices and menus. With the café’s success, Pat founded a second restaurant, Rock River Lunch Bag, in 2011, near Rocks National Lakeshore (see photo, below).
The menus Pat has created practically define wholesome home-cooking. Breads are baked fresh and locally. Eggs come from farms “down the road” where chickens and cows roam the fields. Fish is harvested from nearby Lake Superior.
Pat’s plan in part involved securing an education in business, which she pursued at MUM. Prior, she had spent eight years in the U.S. Army as a supply sergeant, stationed at bases in Fort Campbell, KY, Fort Drum, NY, and Stuttgart, Germany. After she left the military, she began taking business courses at Bay College and Northern Michigan University with the intention of starting her own business.
And she began working in restaurant and services management positions. Pat was director of guest services at Lakeshore Hotel on Mackinac Island, dining room manager at the organic, whole foods restaurant Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette, and operations manager at Food For Thought, an organic food manufacturer near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The direction of Pat’s life shifted dramatically in 2002 when she attended a lecture in Chicago by Dr. John Hagelin, professor of physics at Maharishi University, on the Unified Field Theory. Soon after, Pat learned the Transcendental Meditation ® technique and decided to enroll at MUM. She earned her MBA in 2005.
“For me, the remarkable thing about MUM was the breadth and depth of the educational experience and the acceptance that there’s much ‘bigger’ things available than a given goal-oriented path,” she says. “That’s a large part of what MUM was to me.
Since it’s founding, Rock River Café has developed a reputation as a “conscious” business that supports sustainability, local sourcing and Earth-friendly practices.Sauces and dressings are made from scratch with simple ingredients and well-considered recipes. Pre-prepared foods are used only sparingly and chosen carefully, considering the non-GMO, fair trade, organic and sustainable practices of the manufacturers. Each cafe location offers a different menu and different style of service, though they they all source local food and operate by the same high standards.
Pat’s plan is well on the way to being realized. She plans to further explore her interest in organizational theory, intrigued by the study of organizations’ complex interactions within their ecosystems. “I want to investigate this deeper while working on a PhD in the near future,” she says. Pat’s final word on her time at MUM? “MUM was a place where I could think and believe and be myself in a supportive atmosphere. And interwoven throughout the day was the practice of TM, which allows you to touch base with the depth within. For me, that was perfect.”
Article, “Rock River Cafe into ‘slow food,”’ The Mining Journal, March 14, 2014: Read it.
Written by Warren Goldie