Pork, sauerkraut and leadership

Probably not a lot of restaurants serve a pork and sauerkraut rice plate, but that was the special one recent day at Solar’s Real Food Kitchen and Cafe in Springfield, a southern Minnesota town with a strong German heritage.

It’s one way Deanna Bryce is trying to mix it up to make her cafe thrive.  She’s trying to use more local and organic food at the same time she offers traditional standbys like hamburgers, French fries and, in Springfield, sauerkraut.


Bryce is an East Coast transplant who landed in Marshall in 2006 but then lost her job at Schwan Food Company during the recession. She and her husband had bought a Springfield drive-in when they arrived in Minnesota and then “reluctantly” moved to Springfield. This spring they converted it to a full-time cafe, planted a garden, installed solar panels and dived into the community.

“If you drive through the community, it looks dead,” she said. “Then when you meet the people you see it is vibrant.

“We’re doing the things we’re passionate about.”

In Bryce’s case that meant going through a community leadership program run by University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality. She’s the subject of the first in a series of videos the center is creating to highlight the program and tout the value of cross-fertilization among rural Minnesota residents. You’ll note in the video the credit she gives to D&M Custom Cycle for delivering an “ah ha” moment about the impact one person can have.  “You can build any kind of business you want in a rural community,” she says.

The program she went through, called Bridging Brown County, introduced her to others in the county and gave her inroads into how to get things done. You can find her blog here.

Minnesota is full of people like Deanna Bryce. They like living in rural America and are dreaming up ways to create lives and communities of value, often against tough demographic, political and economic odds. That’s a theme we’ve run across again and again in more than three years of Ground Level reporting on outstate communities. In fact, we’re getting set to publish a project on the topic called “Fighting for an American Countryside.”

Coming soon to an online bookstore near you.