Ellen Walsh Rosmann thought the small western Iowa town of Harlan, where she now calls home, needed a restaurant that features locally raised foods on the menu.
Ellen, who opened the restaurant two years ago, grew up on a dairy farm in northeastern Iowa and attended Iowa State University to study public service administration and agriculture. Later, she married farmer Daniel Rosmann, and they moved to his family farm near Harlan.
Despite growing up on a dairy farm, restaurant management comes naturally to Ellen. Her parents own and operate the Irish Shanti in Gunder (population 30), home of the Gunderburger, which draws customers from hours away.
Her brother, Hans Walsh, managed the Irish Shanti for 10 years, then moved to Harlan to help Ellen with Milk and Honey. Hans is the manager of the restaurant, and often the head chef too.
Many of the ingredients on the menu are provided from the Rosmann farm, including eggs, beef, bacon, potatoes and homemade pickles from their garden-grown cucumbers.
“We can feed people in rural America good food. You don’t have to go to Des Moines for a high quality farm to table restaurant,” Ellen says.
Milk and Honey is open for breakfast and lunch every day and for dinner on Friday evenings. “We wanted things to be familiar but different, using seasonal ingredients,” Ellen says. For example, on a Friday night in April, the special was pesto primavera with asparagus. Their grilled cheese sandwich features goat cheese on Omaha sourdough bread.
Restaurant owner is only one of Ellen’s many hats. She has 200 chickens, and the eggs are sold at the family farm store as well as to restaurants in Omaha and to Milk and Honey. But more than 90 percent of Ellen’s time is spent operating Farm to Table, a local food distribution network she established several years ago.
Running three businesses hasn’t been easy. A year ago, shortly after the birth of Ellen’s second child, she had surgery to remove a kidney. “It was a bad year. I didn’t even plant a garden." But right after our conversation at her restaurant on a Sunday in early May, Ellen was heading out to buy tomato plants for this year’s garden. “I feel unstoppable.”
Hall is a freelance writer from Des Moines.