Before Gig Harbor ceased operation of the Key Peninsula Farmers Market, local farmers brainstormed to come up an alternative plan to market fresh local produce.
Holly Hendrick and Barb Schoos co-founded the Fresh Food Revolution, a Key Peninsula Cooperative. Taking orders online and having products delivered indoors at the civic center in Vaughn allows sales to continue into the cooler months. Schoos said they “batted around a lot of ideas.”
Erin Ewald of the Pierce County Conservation District helped direct producer and member Lyn Apodaca find federal grant money to build a high tunnel, allowing for year-round produce sales through the Fresh Food Revolution Co-op.
Apodaca, owner of Stoney Earth Farm, applied for three federal grants to build the high tunnel. The grants were awarded from the USDA under the National Resource Conservation Service in April 2012. The first grant is for the building and cover crop planting, a second grant for the inside, and a third to finance testing soil and fertilizer indoors.
No grant money would be received until the building was erected, so Apodaca borrowed money to get started. The 30-foot by 96-foot tunnel garden was purchased from Oregon Valley Greenhouse and delivered in August 2012.
According to Schoos, Apodaca is one of the main co-op suppliers.
“She is the hardest worker I know and grows an amazing variety of produce. Most people who helped were members of the co-op and were very excited about having an extended growing season,” Schoos said.
The project became a real community effort. Friends and family volunteered labor and money. Some people paid in advance for produce to meet the cost.
Schoos worked with Apodaca to square up the site. They screwed the frames together before it was raised. Darin Richardson and Jeremy Hicks, from Kiwi Fencing, were hired to install support posts, complete the steel frame and mount plastic sheeting. The plastic, guaranteed to last four years, but expected to last six, covers the sloped roof and sides.
Norm Brones came out one day and helped Apodaca put up the high struts. They used a big orchard ladder in the back of her pickup to reach the top. That simplified the work to make it easier for the rest of the job.
“We eat a lot of vegetables from her, so if we get more for a longer season, that’s a good thing,” Brones said.
Three truckloads of topsoil were purchased from Green Earth Development in Silverdale. Cory Morello, company owner, donated another four loads of topsoil and compost as well as all trucking and delivery costs.
“The amount of produce she supplies is staggering for the amount of property she has. Her farm is quite impressive. She is doing it all on her own,” Morello said.
Thirty-inch raised beds will be planted for spring and will include tomatoes and peppers. Produce should be available year-round in addition to crops grown outdoors.
The co-op has continued through the winter offering beef, pork, lamb, poultry, eggs, dairy and root vegetables; carrots, beets, parsnips and sunchokes.
Other local farms, including Dee Hendrix’s My Mother’s Garden, and Tahoma Farms in Puyallup are supplying fresh products.
There is a $25 annual application fee to join the co-op.
For information on the Fresh Food Revolution co-op, call 884-1088 or visit freshfoodrevolution.org. For information on Stoney Earth Farms, call 677-6589.