DIXON, Ill. — When her teenage workers go out into the world and pursue careers of their own, Kayla Halfacre hopes they will remember what they learned while working at the Dixon Culver’s restaurant.
“They’re like sponges. You can teach them little things like holding doors open for people, saying please, saying thank you. So, hopefully, when they go off to college or to do whatever they plan to do, they will remember those things they learned at Culver’s — and how important farming is,” Halfacre said.
How important farming is and how important ag education is will be emphasized by Culver’s restaurants around the country when Culver’s sponsors its Scoops of Thanks Day on May 2.
On that day, diners can donate $1 and receive a single scoop of Culver’s frozen custard. All proceeds from the Scoops of Thanks Day single scoops go to support agricultural education in the local areas.
Scoops of Thanks started in 2013 and always has been a hit with Dixon Culver’s customers.
Halfacre started working at the Dixon Culver’s when she was 15 and a student at Dixon High School. She worked at the register, waiting on customers and at the drive thru and in the dining room.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” she said.
Halfacre’s enthusiasm for that job and for Culver’s is obvious.
“I can wholeheartedly say I’ve never worked a day in my life because I just love it. It’s like a second family,” she said.
She attended Northern Illinois University and earned a degree in hospitality management, working at the Dixon Culver’s through college. She met her husband, Tyler, while both were working at the Culver’s in Dixon.
Halfway through college, she said she realized that a restaurant and hospitality career was what she wanted — and not just any restaurant.
“I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she said.
She moved up to general manager after college and a conversation with owner Jason Roe helped her move to the next step.
“It was a conversation with Jason one day. I mentioned I was ready for the next step, and he said ‘I’ve been waiting for you to say that.’ From there, I took the 16-week franchisee program through Culver’s. Once I was done, I was officially part-owner,” she said.
She is the operating partner and in charge of day-to-day operations at the Dixon Culver’s. She has a leadership team, but her job is to make sure that everything is functioning as it should daily.
“Every moment of it has been rewarding for me. It’s hard work that pays off. I put my heart and soul into it, and I still do that today,” she said.
That enthusiasm and effort extends to being all in with various ag education efforts in Lee County.
With funds raised through Scoops of Thanks and some of the other ag education donation days that Culver’s sponsors, Halfacre has been able to donate to the Sauk Valley Community College ag program.
She and her team also participate in the Lee County Ag in the Classroom’s Ag Expo. The event for fifth-grade classes throughout the county takes place in April and showcases the different types of farming and agriculture and shows students how agriculture and farming impacts their daily lives and how important agriculture is to the restaurant business.
“We tailor the presentation to their age. I always bring Oreos with me. We wouldn’t have Oreos if it wasn’t for farmers. The same thing with ketchup. Sometimes people don’t think about where their food comes from, including things like tomatoes and corn syrup,” Halfacre said.
She reflects on the only job she’s ever had — and clearly loves so much.
“We literally wouldn’t have jobs if it wasn’t for the farmers,” she said.