When the Havana Café of Havana, North Dakota went out of business in 1984 because the population of the farm community was getting smaller, there was no place left in town to have a cup of coffee in the morning. Jay Saunders, who runs the gas station, set up a coffee pot and invited locals to gather there, as they had done at the counters of the café, but somehow it wasn’t the same.
The Havana Community Club decided to re-open the café on their own. Men pitched in and fixed up the old building as best they could; wives volunteered to run the kitchen, agreeing to cook their specialties for neighbors, family, and friends one day a month. The Havana school had just closed (children now travel north to the bigger town of Forman for their education), so the refurbished eatery was able to get good appliances and equipment from the old school lunch room. When The Farmers’ Inn opened a few weeks before Christmas in 1984, a comical sign on the bulletin board reflected the true soul of a meeting place in the midst of a sparsely-peopled landscape: “Therapy Session 9-12 and 1-4. No Charge.”
Because different people cooked their specialties on different days, you never knew exactly what the menu would be if you happened to stop in. The ladies of the town, as well as some of the men, took turns flipping flapjacks and cooking eggs in the morning, then making a hearty meal in the middle of the day. There was almost always a pan of hot caramel rolls in the morning, and there was nothing better than Murdean Gulsvig’s sausage patties and pancakes at breakfast time. Murdean’s wife Doris made a delicious pork roast with mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy for dinner.
In September, 1999, the communal experiment at the town cafe ended and The Farmers Inn became privately owned again. Anna Kemtel, the new proprietor, took over from Havana’s citizens when, she says, “All the ladies and men got tired of cooking and cleaning, so they advertised in the Sargent County Teller.” Ms. Kemtel, who had been part-owner of the town café in Forman, ten miles north, still uses Murdean Gulsvig’s recipe for pancakes every morning. And The Farmers Inn is still the place where citizens of Havana gather every morning to exchange the news of the day.
"1996: Havana citizen Murdean Gulsvig, a major force behind the Farmers Inn, takes his turn making morning pancakes. Although Mr. Gulsvig no longer works behind the grill, his pancake recipe remains a breakfast staple."
"This painted barn in the midst of farm fields signals a rare and wonderful small town cafe."
"Here you see all of downtown Havana, North Dakota."