Co-op nurtures food growers

Group to sell produce, other goods

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

 

Market makes room for co-op

Craft in the Village, a monthly event in Vancouver’s Uptown Village that runs May through September, is morphing into the Urban Growers Market. It will offer the same music, food, art, crafts and shopping opportunities as before, but with the addition of locally grown crops from the Urban Farmers Co-op and other small-scale urban growers.

Craft in the Village took place on the first Friday evening of every month, but the Urban Growers Market will move to the second Friday so as not to conflict with downtown Vancouver’s First Friday Art Walk, said market steering committee member Sunrise O’Mahoney.

The Urban Growers Market will be in the One World Merchants parking lot at 23rd and Main streets. O’Mahoney expects the first market event to take place from 4 to 8 p.m. on May 13. The last Urban Growers Market of 2011 should take place on Oct. 14.

— Mary Ann Albright

If you go

• What: Urban Farmers Co-op informational meetings.

• When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday and Feb. 7.

• Where: Minnehaha Grange Hall, 4905 N.E. St. Johns Blvd., Vancouver.

• Cost: Free.

• Information: http://www.myurba..., 360-909-9012.

When The Grange was founded in the 19th century, the intent of the fraternal organization was to encourage farm families to band together for the common good. Next week, the Minnehaha Grange Hall will return to those roots, hosting the first of two informational meetings for a new Urban Abundance program that's for now being called the Urban Farmers Co-op.

“Having the meetings there is going back to the original spirit of farmers working together,” said Warren Neth, founder and director of the Vancouver-based Urban Abundance, a project of Slow Food Southwest Washington, the local chapter of the national nonprofit Slow Food USA. Urban Abundance encourages people in cities and suburban areas to grow and share food.

The co-op is part of this effort, a way to help growers earn income from their crops and to provide more local food options for consumers. The co-op will begin selling produce, flowers and nursery stock this spring at a booth at the budding Urban Growers Market, a monthly farmers market in Uptown Village targeting a May opening.

“It’s really putting the entrepreneurial spirit to work to get more food growing in urban cores,” Neth said.

The details of how the co-op will run are still developing, but the idea is that members will sell their bounty at the co-op’s booth at the Urban Growers Market. In exchange for manning the booth, the co-op will take a commission to help cover the cost of scales, bags, twist ties and other necessary supplies.

Co-op leaders will help handle the publicity and accounting aspects of market gardening for members, providing a more accessible entrée into urban farming as a small business, said program coordinator Maika Horjus.

“I think there are a lot of people who have a background in food production but might not have the time and resources to start their own booth (at a farmers market). This is a way for small-scale growers to pool their resources and share the administrative burden of having a booth,” she said.

Horjus, 21, is a Vancouver native. She recently returned to the area after earning a bachelor of science degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in conservation and resource studies.

Though at first the co-op will sell only at the Urban Growers Market, Neth plans to expand to other farmers markets in the future. Organizers would also like to add other support services such urban farming training, bulk organic fertilizer purchasing and business consulting.

One benefit of the co-op’s booth will be creating more of a farm-to-table connection for the community, according to Horjus.

“I think it’s really fun for consumers to be able to meet the people who grow their food,” she said. “That’s one aspect of the local food movement, making those personal connections.”

Neth got the idea for the co-op at a food security conference in New Orleans last fall. It’s modeled in part on a cooperative urban farming initiative in Memphis, Tenn.

“It’s really about supporting growers with an interest in marketing their goods,” said Neth, a 32-year-old Vancouver resident who grew up on a berry farm in Ridgefield. “Just trying to figure out how we can connect the dots better in our food system is very important to me.”

Market makes room for co-op

Craft in the Village, a monthly event in Vancouver’s Uptown Village that runs May through September, is morphing into the Urban Growers Market. It will offer the same music, food, art, crafts and shopping opportunities as before, but with the addition of locally grown crops from the Urban Farmers Co-op and other small-scale urban growers.

Craft in the Village took place on the first Friday evening of every month, but the Urban Growers Market will move to the second Friday so as not to conflict with downtown Vancouver’s First Friday Art Walk, said market steering committee member Sunrise O’Mahoney.

The Urban Growers Market will be in the One World Merchants parking lot at 23rd and Main streets. O’Mahoney expects the first market event to take place from 4 to 8 p.m. on May 13. The last Urban Growers Market of 2011 should take place on Oct. 14.

— Mary Ann Albright