Bright bouquets of dahlias and daisies, in all sizes and colors. Boxes of the first ripe apples of the season. Tables spread with all kinds of local produce, picked just that morning.
In many ways, the Fresh Food Revolution Co-op resembles many farmers markets.
Volunteers and vendors can reliably be found organizing produce and selling their goods from 4-5:30 p.m. every Wednesday in the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn on the Key Peninsula.
Yet Wednesday afternoon is just the tip of the operation.
The bulk of the action happens online through the co-op’s digital storefront.
Every Sunday and Monday, its 65 members place their orders online.
On Wednesday mornings, vendors drop off their produce, and members pick up their orders in the afternoon.
Last week, Ann-Marie Ugles, made her customary Wednesday stop at the co-op. She was buying produce for an after-school cooking class she teaches where junior high students would make Ugles’ “Yam Good Breakfast Sandwich.”
Ugles slipped a quarter of one of her sandwiches to co-op board member Lisa Bryan, who took a bite.
“Delicious,” she announced.
That’s one of the perks of shopping for produce among friends and neighbors, Bryan said. Everyone loves to swap recipes.
“People get very excited about it,” said Bryan, who has a radish top pesto recipe she loves to share. “Like, ‘What are you doing with your food?’ ”
When Barb Schoos co-founded the co-op five years ago, she wanted to address problems she saw with the traditional farmers market model.
Many are limited to full-time farm workers who must sit in the sun with their produce all day, she said. Any produce that doesn’t sell goes to food banks or to waste.
With the digital model, producers don’t have to sit through the pick-up period to sell their produce, though some opt to anyway.
Producers know each week exactly how much produce they’ve pre-sold, so they can harvest only what they need Wednesday morning and avoid wasting excess.
Schoos said her favorite part of the co-op is that it doesn’t bar small farms from participating. Some vendors work several acres full time, but others have only modest gardens in their yards and sell whatever harvest they have each week.
“We want to inspire people to get farming,” she said.
The co-op gives local farmers a place to sell their produce, even if it isn’t certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture but was grown using fully organic farming practices.
“It’s like a handshake,” said Bryan, the co-op board member. “You’re face to face with your farmer saying, ‘I trust you to grow my food.’”
WillaBella Farm is one such farm and has been at the co-op for six months. It’s run by brother and sister Will and Izzie Rose, ages 12 and 8.
They sell tree fruit, root vegetables, leafy greens and, as of last week, fresh garlic.
“I like farming,” Izzie said. “It’s fun.”
She loves the garden and often can be found following her mother, Kathleen Rose, around Rose Orchard. Kathleen Rose, a co-op board member and producer, runs the organic orchard in Gig Harbor full time.
Will is much more interested in the business and loves figuring out how much the pair will make off their produce each week.
“About $80 to $100,” he clarified. “We’re saving for college.”
As Schoos looks to the future of the co-op, she said she hopes to continue to find more farmers and producers to keep up with the growing demand.
As for the tight-knit group of volunteers, producers and members who love the operation as it is, the Fresh Food Revolution Co-op has created not only a community, but a family.
Ugles said she looks forward to her weekly visit not only because the group is made up of dedicated, hardworking people, but because those dedicated, hardworking people are her friends and neighbors.
“It’s amazing what might be growing just around your corner,” she said.
Hannah Shirley: 253-597-8670
Fresh Food Revolution Co-op
To join and place an order: Go to bit.ly/29TU6Kc.
Online storefront hours: 8 a.m. Sunday to 9 p.m. Monday.
Pickup hours: 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Pickup location: Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17010 S. Vaughn Road KPN, Vaughn.