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Jenn Petrunis lives in Port Orchard and works in Bremerton. She drives to Poulsbo for locally-grown produce, to a Southworth dairy farm for milk and to a friend’s place for fresh eggs.
Healthy living and sustainable foods are Petrunis’ passion, and she is not alone.
“So many of us like to shop that way because it’s important to us,” said Laura Moynihan, president and founder of the Kitsap Community Food Co-op. “But it’s so hard driving all around the county just to find the farmers.”
“Driving for a couple hours to get carrots is ridiculous,” agreed Petrunis.
Members of the Kitsap Community Co-op, a group that is trying to bring local farmers together to sell at one community-owned market in Bremerton, met at the Herban Gardens Cafe in Old Town Silverdale Monday to discuss the next steps in their sustainable foods mission and swap homemade soups.
Everyone brought their favorite soup to the meeting and then draws numbers. The lowest number got to choose the first homemade soup to take home and also told their “soup story” which details what is in the soup they brought, how they found the recipe and the source of their whole, organic, or homegrown ingredients.
Thai butternut squash, curry lentil coconut milk, traditional french onion, and organic vegetable soups lined the buffet table.
Petrunis’ vegetable soup which include parsnips, cabbage and green beans from her own garden was from her mother’s recipe. Megan Shelton of Bremerton, who drew the lowest number claimed this soup first.
“It has to have the parsnips,” said Petrunis, who explained how she prepared seeds for her winter garden earlier this year.
The co-op members put on regular events such as the soup swap to keep people talking about local foods and to reach their member goal. This year the goal is 500 new people.
The co-op was incorporated in 2009, but has not yet been able to begin construction on the market because of membership. It has 276 members so far who have paid a $200 lifetime membership to own part of the future store. However, the board of directors believes that it is feasible to start building only when membership reaches 1,000 residents.
“People keep asking us, why is this taking so long,” said Renee Hernandez, board member.
Each member of the soup swap has their own vision of what the co-op will do for Bremerton. Hernandez believes that a co-op will mean fair wages and tighter controls on the ethical treatment of migrant workers in the area, since the market will only buy from farmers they know who pay a fair wage.
Jess Sappington, of Bremerton, who cooked the Thai butternut squash soup, hopes that the co-op will bring people together in the city. She said that food has a way of “uniting a community.” Matt Sappington, her husband, joined in her story saying that she cooked the squash soup for them on their very first date and he knew it was love because “the woman can cook a mean soup.”
The Thai butternut squash was the second soup claimed in the swap.
“We are building something that everyone can own,” Jess Sappington said. “This will be here for my children.”
Megan Shelton, of Bremerton, agreed with Sappington, adding that Bremerton is a “walking city” and that it will be easy to reach the proposed location on Wheaton Way and Sheridan. She said that it is a good thing that the co-op has chosen an accessible location. When she cooked her curry lentil coconut milk soup, some ingredients came from a can because convenience wins out over her desire to eat right.
“No one wants to drive up a dirt road to find their produce,” Hernandez said. “We live in a different day and age and unless there is a big sign and a parking lot, it’s hard to survive as a store.”
The group has its eye on a 6,000-square-foot building on 44 acres to be shared with the future Boys and Girls Club of America and the Youth Wellness Center. Though the co-op will be grassroots in philosophy, its size will be comparable to a Whole Foods or Safeway and carry “as local as possible,” said Hernandez.
“The city has promised us the space if we raise the money along the way,” said Moynihan. “They’ve also granted us money this year to hire a project manager which we really needed.”
The community-owned market will be shared by 1,000 members who will get patronage refunds as soon as the store has a profitable year. Hernandez said that in the meantime they will continue events like the soup swap to find like-minded “foodies” in Kitsap County.
For more information visit www.kitsapfoodcoop.org/