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Retail market at 21 Acres aims to be a hub for local food

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Basket at 21 Acres
Staff photos/Deborah Stone Fresh asparagus, rhubarb, spinach and cauliflower were on hand for the opening of the 21 Acres retail market.
Cauliflower at 21 AcresThe long-awaited 21 Acres retail market is now open. Featuring sustainable, locally-sourced farm products, the new market gives residents affordable options for fresh and value-added items, as well as the opportunity to support local farmers. According to Cat Brimhall, retail manager, the operation will start small with offerings reflecting the early spring season. As summer approaches, products will become more abundant.

She says, “The fact that the 21 Acres Market will start small will mean that we can provide special items grown by area farmers who are not producing large volumes and wholesaling regularly to other much bigger stores.” She adds, “We are committed to paying farmers fair prices and being flexible in our needs, so we can take advantage of working with producers who are growing the most beautiful and flavorful farm product available. This will likely mean that it will make sense for us to source things to offer customers that other grocers cannot.”

Flowers at 21 Acres
Staff photo/Deborah Stone Fresh flowers were popular choices at the grand opening.
Brimhall explains that each week, the market will showcase special items and in the future she also plans to spotlight specific producers. The approximate 1,800-square-foot center, which is located on the ground level of the recently completed 21 Acres green-built building, is organized into various product-specific sections.

“We have produce in one area,” says Brimhall, “and dairy in another. Then we have a place for bulk items, like grains and flours. There’s also a dry-packaged grocery section and up front, we have organic floral bouquets.”

Brimhall, who has a strong farmers market background, spent weeks talking to area farmers and visiting their fields and kitchens to develop a sourcing plan to provide products that the local community needs and which farmers can deliver in reliable quantities.

Some of the producers represented on opening day included Bluebird Grains, Chinook Farms, Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Holmquist Hazelnuts, Floret Flower Farm, Frog’s Song Farm, Highwater Farm and Alvarez Organics.

Brimhall views the market as a win-win situation for both producers/farmers and shoppers.

She says, “For the farmers and producers, it’s another opportunity, another outlet for them to sell their goods and make money. And shoppers benefit by knowing that what they’re getting is optimum nutrition with the freshest of products. They also get to know where their food comes from, which will help to give them a stronger connection to what they eat.”

Brimhall has many plans for the market. In the future, she hopes to get a liquor license in order to sell Washington crafted wines, meads and ciders, and she would love to be able to offer freshly prepared items for folks who want to grab and go.

“It would be great to make this type of food on site in the kitchen upstairs,” she adds. Brimhall aims to make the market a hub for truly local food. “That’s what I want it to be known for,” she says.

For Gretchen Garth, 21 Acres Board president, the opening of the market is the achievement of another milestone in the center’s plan. “It’s so exciting,” she enthuses. “It’s wonderful to walk around and see shoppers with their baskets full, supporting the local farmers.” She adds, “And with the change in products that will occur, it will be a great way for people to feel the rhythms of the seasons.”

Woodinville resident Miina, accompanied by her two kids, was enjoying the produce on opening day, which consisted of asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, leeks, cauliflower, onions, kale, arugula and purple and fingerling potatoes. She indicated that she is looking forward to June when the fruits and veggies will be even more bountiful.

Other shoppers, like Susie and her friend Nancy, had come because they were curious about the building, as they had heard much about its sustainable aspects. They also explained that they are trying to buy more local produce.

“I’m just getting into organics because I know it helps with a healthier lifestyle,” commented Susie. “And it’s great that there are classes and people you can talk to here if you want to learn about this type of thing.”

Garth feels that many folks understand and appreciate the concept of “local,” which leads her to believe that the market will be successful. “I think that once people find out about us and stop by, they’ll be back. It’s a matter of awareness, which I know will increase in time.”

The 21 Acres Market is open noon to 7 p.m., Wednesday – Friday. As feedback is received from community members, market hours may be adjusted. For more information: www.21acres.org/market.

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