The expansion of the Port Townsend Food Co-op is almost finished, with administrators anticipating the final touches to be complete for a ceremony on August 16.
The expansion of the Port Townsend Food Co-op is almost finished, with administrators anticipating the final touches to be complete for a ceremony on August 16. During the remodel, the Co-op took on a new look, its walls were bumped out, its interior was re-designed and different sections such as produce and the deli were expanded. Many store parts and pieces of equipment were replaced and updated over the course of the construction, but they were not thrown out. Instead, the Co-op donated parts to the farms they buy from.
A walk-in cooler was given to SpringRain Farm, a walk-in freezer to Solstice Farm Bed and Breakfast, and shelving to Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim, as well as the Orcas and San Juan Islands Food Co-ops.
These donations are some of the most recent actions by the Co-op to stimulate the local food economy, said Co-op General Manager Kenna Eaton. A few years back, they gave a refrigeration truck to Red Dog Farm, and grants of $5,000 each to Dharma Ridge and Midori farms to build hoop houses, the plastic-covered domes that extend crop seasons.
These actions came after the Co-op met with local farmers to learn what they could do to better support them. One major response was that the Co-op could build a capacity to buy, hold, and sell more local product.
The Co-op realized that although they purchase lots of local produce, when winter comes and local crop yields decrease, produce from out of state and country often fill the gaps. Things like hoop houses, refrigeration, and freezing can help increase year-round local crop supply, which benefits both local farmers and buyers, like the Co-op and its customers.
“If we do a better job selling local produce, then that’s going to help our local producers,” Eaton said. “It’s mutually beneficial.”
In their first season with hoop houses, Dharma Ridge and Midori sent in lettuce one month early, Eaton said.
This goal of increasing the capacity to store and sell local produce was a major factor behind the Co-op’s expansion, which started in April of 2016.
Eaton said that this cooperation between the Co-op and local farms not only benefits local producers and the Co-op, but the local economy as well. She cited a recent study by the National Cooperative Growers, who found that every dollar spent at a food co-op becomes $1.60 in the community.
The Co-Op is looking to continue their community partnerships, including their investment in the Port Townsend Farmers Market “Fresh Bucks” program, in which the market matches $2 for every $5 spent on SNAP/EBT cards.
“We think having a strong farmers market creates a strong Food Co-op because it strengthens the local economy,” Eaton said.