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Bremerton's FreshLocal provides year-round market for locally grown foods
Jean Schanen is a small, busy woman with no time to spare.
What she lacks in spare time doesn’t compare to what she lacks in space. The 71-year-old planted a garden on her roof, carport, yard and the yards of her neighbors. She and her husband Glenn Huff, 79, have been farming produce for decades, first on land in Brazil, then a 50-acre farm in Wisconsin, and now in and around their Bremerton home.
They know a thing or two about trying to sell those goods.
“Agriculture in this country is almost totally dominated by giant corporations. It’s very, very difficult to compete,” said Schanen.
Bigger names can undercut small farms in prices, while many grocery stores won’t buy from them, making a modest producer’s search for a market a hardship, she said.
Until they find FreshLocal, Schanen’s Bremerton project providing a year-round market for food that’s grown in the region.
Here farmers have no need to fear being turned down in an attempt to sell their goods.
“We meet ‘em at the door with a smile,” said Schanen.
To meet rising consumer demand for nutrient-packed food and to encourage more local farming, Schanen started a non-profit association in August. By Oct. 1, they signed the lease to rent out their current space at 540 4th Street. By mid-November, equipment assembled and stock collected, FreshLocal opened its doors.
The store is an indoor, year-round farmers market of sorts. Items are sold in bulk, alongside fruits and vegetables, organic eggs, raw milk and local cheese. The store offers a complete diet and, Schanen said, a way to buy food without buying excess — no extra packaging, no middle men.
That’s good news to farmers, as ninety-one cents of each dollar spent at commercial grocery stores goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers, while only 9 cents per dollar finds its way back to the farmer, research shows.
“We’re part of a system here to make this a green and environmentally healthy community,” Schanen said.
By sight, the woman can rattle off which farm and farmer produced each FreshLocal product.
It’s the difference between eating a salad and eating a salad knowing who grew the ingredients, along with how they grew them, she added.
It’s a new perspective — or rather, a long-forgotten one.
As of now, roughly 50 farmers are involved in FreshLocal. The store also sells soup, sandwiches and cupcakes.