With some important structural changes made, more folks are shopping locally through the Fresh Food Revolution Food Co-op, an organization that began operating out of the KP Civic Center in spring of 2011.
In March 2018, the co-op board, comprised of farmers and other producers who sell through the co-op, nixed both the customer membership fee and the required customer volunteering, transferring both to the producers who sell through the co-op instead.
FFR board member Karen Olsen, who serves as the market manager and sells meat products from her Port Orchard farm through the co-op, said, “Changing the structure really changed the dynamic of the market. It gave an ownership of the co-op to people who sell through it.”
Farmers and producers were willing to take on the membership fees because the co-op sales structure makes up for it. “The producers just stepped up to the plate. We haven’t had to force our farmers. They are feeling the success in their sales,” Olsen said. Current shoppers do pay a $1 processing fee per order, due when the order is placed online.
The Fresh Food Revolution Food Co-op was founded in 2011 by Barb Schoos and the late Holly Hendrick, with a mission to “encourage locally grown, high quality foods and products produced by sustainable, natural methods that contribute to the health and well-being of our community.”
It was consumer demand following the failure of a local KP farmers market that inspired the beginning of Fresh Food Revolution. KP cooks wanted access to fresh organic local produce and were willing to contribute by sharing the work, management and cost to help farmers grow by banding together as a co-op of consumers, producers and farmers as members.
Some aspects of the co-op remain unchanged from its first days of operation. Customers still place their orders through a website. The co-op doesn’t have a storefront. Pick-up times are limited to a couple of hours a week as well.
With customers ordering ahead of time online, farmers are able to harvest only what has been sold. Many find this preferable to spending all day in a farmers’ market, where harvested produce may or may not be sold.
A second important change was the addition of multiple locations around the region where customers can pick up their orders. Customers are no longer required to show up at the civic center in Vaughn. They can now also choose to pick up at locations which may be more convenient, such as the Seattle Oyster House in Allyn or Blackjack Valley Farm in Port Orchard. The co-op is currently looking for a new pick-up location in Gig Harbor. A Belfair location is also in the works.
Michelle Alger of Fable Farms in Port Orchard began selling through the co-op recently. “My husband and I both work full-time jobs, leaving us perpetually short on time. We simply don’t produce enough items in a large enough quantity to offer wholesale, and selling at a traditional farmers market would mean losing a full weekend day of farm work,” she said. “We’re very grateful for the option to list through FFR, and consider the membership fee a small cost for doing business.”
Customers also appreciate the co-op’s growing list of products. At its start in 2011, the co-op sold almost entirely produce but has since expanded to include local eggs, granola, honey, sauerkraut from a company based in Olympia, barbecue sauce and salsa, as well as many types of dried beans.
Ethically-produced meat products included sausage, bacon, chicken and ham, and fresh, canned and frozen seafood from Westport. The co-op offers local dairy products including butter and cheeses. Local bakers sell everything from crackers to sandwich loaves.
For local folks considering making their first purchase through the co-op, Olsen said “It doesn’t cost anything to visit the online store. Buy as little or as much as you want.”
For more information, go to freshfoodrevolution.org