Recipe for Success

Photos by Sherri Schneider

by Tracy Walsh

Question: What do you get when you combine the following ingredients?

• a small group of hard working community visionaries
• 30 farmers
• 125 Wenatchee area residents hungry for local food
• a great downtown location

Answer: The delectable Farmhouse Table Produce Store in Wenatchee.

The recipe for the Farmhouse Table was generated during the winter of 2007-2008 as a small group of “locavores”—farmers, local food supporters and sustainable agriculture advocates—got together to enjoy potluck dinners made with local foods and to brainstorm about future projects. These locavores were idea people with experience in farming, cooking, and selling local foods. Some were involved with Community Farm Connection (CFC) a non-profit organization that started in 2006 with a mission to support sustainable agriculture, small diversified farms and local food producers in North Central Washington. By creating opportunities for reconnecting consumers with the people who grow their food and increasing the number of food dollars that go into the pockets of local farmers, CFC aims to protect productive farmland from development.

With this vision and a good deal of work behind them, the locavores were able to seek funding to help them bring more locally-grown food into the community in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly package. They received a grant from the Icicle Fund in 2007 and launched the first two CFC programs early in the 2008 growing season: Farmhouse Table Produce Market and a cooperative, multi-farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Recipe in hand, the search was on for a primary ingredient--a place to set up shop. Their search for a visible and accessible location ended when the Woods family donated use of a storefront in downtown Wenatchee. This location, on Mission Street between 1st and 2nd, turned out to be a major component in the project’s success. Sherri Schneider and Kim Lohse, managers of the CSA and Farmhouse Table Produce Market, give the rest of the credit to their customers, who “were the happiest and most dedicated customers in the world.” From my standpoint, I give Sherri and Kim a huge amount of credit, for without their hard work and dedication the place would not have become my favorite store and I would still be longing for fresh, local foods.

The reality is that all the ingredients, the farmers, the customers, the great location, the tireless staff and volunteers and additional partners, combined to create the success of the Farmhouse Table Store in its first season.

Wenatchee Valley College was one of the partners that added key ingredients to this recipe for success. The College donated the use of refrigerator space for storage and packing of the foods they picked up from local farms. The College even helped out with the delivery of the produce boxes to CSA-subscribers.

In addition to finding farmers, purchasing, delivering, packaging, and selling a lot of beautiful produce in 2008, the Farmhouse Table added another component later in the season. They started a Farm-to-Chef program which brings produce from numerous local farms into downtown Wenatchee for distribution to local chefs, restaurants and caterers.

At the end of the season, farmers, customers, staff and just about everyone involved with CFC celebrated the successful 2008 season with a party, “Some Enchanted Eating” -- a smorgasbord of local food, wine, music, and energy. The evening marked the culmination of their successful first year and a taste of delicious things to come. That evening, Sherri noted that the one small step of expanding local CSA programs that they had agreed to in the spring had led to a long hike up a steep mountain. And, she said, “the view from the top was worth the hike!”

Locavores who coordinate the three progams—the CSA, Farmhouse Table, and Farm-to-Chef—are continuing to refine the recipe this winter. Kim and CSA Manager Mike Corchran will cooperate with farmers to prepare for a bigger CSA program. As Executive Director, Sherri will finish reporting on the first year, work on securing more funding, and improve communication between the large network of contacts, partner organizations, customers and farmers. Fran Taber, current CFC President, will be catching up on the accounting and financial planning. Everyone will get ready to move into a larger building in February.

Next year I hope you will join me in appreciating and supporting Farmhouse Table Produce in Wenatchee. The recipe is easy. Push open the door, walk in, take a deep breath, check out what is in your weekly box, scan the room for things to add, and smile. And know that your smile and the positive energy that you emit when you walk in will be a highlight of Sherri, Kim, and Mike’s day. Visiting Farmhouse Table was the high point of my week all summer long. I can’t wait to walk into their new location one block south on 10 N. Mission Street next spring to see what is in my box the first week. Thank you Farmhouse Table, you made it easy to Buy Fresh and Buy Local!

By the way, The Farmhouse Table is looking for a couple more ingredients to add to the pot. If anyone has a walk in cooler or delivery van to offer, please stop by and say hi!