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Food Shed wants to become local foods hub in North Kitsap
October 3, 2012 @ 12:51pm | Rodika Tollefson
Leslee Pate is a third-generation farmer who has been farming in North Kitsap for about 10 years. With a background in natural foods wholesale and retail as well as marketing, Pate said saw a disconnect between local producers and consumers. What started as an idea of a co-op to help bridge the gap grew into The Food Shed, a nascent Kingston business that combines farming, producing foods and connecting people with those foods, both through retail sales and café-type lunches or dinners, as well as education.
Pate, one of three owners, said the vision has been evolving — and still is — as the partners take small steps to implement their plans. They started out by baking pastries and selling them at the farmers market and through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares.
The baked goods include locally sourced ingredients as well as unique flavor combinations.
“The response was overwhelming. People wanted everything we had,” said Pam Buitenveld, another owner who also owns Maggie’s Farm nearby.
Earlier this year, they took a plunge into leasing the property that was formerly home to Kingston Farm. The move gave them a home base as well as the ability for one more step, the beginnings of their hope to become a community hub. The former farmhouse was remodeled to include a small commercial kitchen, a room that can host small events, and a few other public spaces. Once the kitchen was certified this summer, Friday Café was launched — a lunchtime cafe with a few menu options, along with pastries and other goodies. The weekly event has been building a steady following.
Another regular offering is “farm to fork” dinners, hosted both at The Food Shed and at private homes, for small groups. The dinners utilize foods from the farm as well as other local producers. They’re partnering up with local wineries for wine pairings and with other food providers.
“We’ve roped in other businesses,” said Pate, who co-founded the Poulsbo Farmers Market. “It’s about inclusivity, not just all us.”
The long-term vision includes being an educational hub for slow-food, farming and producing classes. Already, classes are being offered to the community at the Shed, including hands-on live-animal processing.
“We’re still in the development stages and trying to diversify how we make our money. It’s not just about pastries,” Pate said.
The business is at the end of its first year in what Pate and Buitenveld see as a 36-month evolution process. There’s still much to be done, and one immediate goal is to get a five-year lease for the farm; their hope is to eventually purchase the five-acre setting. Part of the property is already being used to raise animals — including pigs, goats and chickens — and the plan is to farm some of the land for indigenous crops and other produce. If they secure the lease or option to buy, they plan to remodel the barn, which is being vacated by a feed store, into an events space.
Other goals include opening a year-round farm stand where other producers can sell products as well, and adding a bar with a beer tap in the main building. The idea of a B&B was considered but that space will likely be used for an intern instead.
The kitchen is available for rent to other producers, as is the rest of the space for small events, even though The Food Shed’s purpose is not to be an events venue.
“A lot of this is in development while we’re building our plan and our value proposition. We like to think of ourselves as incubators,” Pate said.
One new business has already grown out of the incubation side. Ilgvar “Iggy” Daga, who became a silent partner recently, has been using the remodeled root cellar on the property to ferment vegetables and fruits. Daga is waiting to get labels finalized for his Iggy’s Foods products and then plans to sell them to the public. He’s also the soup master for the Friday Café.
“I believe in the vision of The Food Shed as a future model for a community and a sustainable economy,” he said. “It’s bringing the future into the present. People love the community feel and I think it’s an expression of the yearning people have for this level of community.”
While sharing their long-term vision for creating a new community model, the business partners have attracted both attention and support from other groups. They’re hoping to work with the Bainbridge Graduate Institute to create an educational component, and have been asked by various groups for partnerships.
One of the decisions they’re considering is to turn their general partnership structure into a social purpose corporation (SPC). It’s a new model established by the state Legislature during the last session. The SPC model allows companies to pursue a social mission while maximizing shareholder value, and requires the establishing of a general public benefit whose purpose is to have a societal impact. Several other states have adopted this model in addition to Washington.
“We hope to be one of the first in the state to do that,” Pate said, adding that the main advantage for them of an SPC over a nonprofit, which they have also considered, is the control over the business model while they’re still in the early stages.
After the Kingston farmers market season ends, The Food Shed will move to the Poulsbo farmers market as well as be open for its café for another day or two on the weekends. With the kitchen flow and other things under control, they’ll be ready to move on to some of the bigger projects as long as they secure the lease.
They said The Food Shed location was opened a bit early in the process to get a little income flowing because the business is being bootstrapped while they’re paying expenses like rent. But even as fast as they’ve been moving, supporters are encouraging them to go even faster.
“What we’re proposing is getting a lot of attention and the momentum is moving quickly and pushing us faster than we can develop some things,” Buitenveld said.
Still, their goal is to keep a steady pace so they don’t grow too fast.
“A lot of people are looking at our business model and are curious about what we’re doing,” Pate said. “We’ve been growing sustainably and incrementally… We love seeing the community trying to push us further faster than we can go.”
New restaurants in area
Several new restaurants have opened on the Kitsap Peninsula in the past year. Here are some that opened recently in each part of the region:
Bainbridge: Restaurant Marche
The brainchild of renowned local chef Greg Atkinson, the restaurant has garnered quite a bit of media attention on the Seattle side since opening in spring. According to its website, the menu is focused on “Cuisine du Marché, a style of cooking that relies on fresh, local ingredients from the market to inform the daily menu.” The Pacific Northwest–style bistro is located next to the farmers market.
Poulsbo: 305 Diner
Located across form Poulsbo Inn, the diner is open for breakfast and lunch. Owner Steve Koen is a recent transplant to the area from Salt Lake City, attracted to Poulsbo when he saw the possibility of opening a restaurant. Koen has been in the industry for 35 years. The menu is general fare such as pancakes, omelets and burgers.
Bremerton: El Balcon
Previously a small food stand in downtown Bremerton, El Balcon now has its own space on Pacific Avenue. In addition to the old menu, new items have been added. The cuisine is Mexican and Salvadoran, paying tribute to the roots of its owners, respectively, Ofelia and Mario Amaya. Mario said the cozy location allows him to stay open later and the timing was good when the spot opened for rent.
Port Orchard: Doc’s Bistro
Located inside the Harrison Medical Center building, the bistro just opened in September and is owned by Carl and Mescha Manietta. In addition to espresso, gourmet chai and milkshakes, the menu includes breakfast and lunch from fresh ingredients. Lunch boxes, catering, limited delivery and other services are also offered. The couple have owned and operated Double Shot Docs inside The Doctors Clinic Salmon Medical Building since 2007.
Gig Harbor: Blue Agave Café
The Mexican grill and tequila bar is located in Uptown Gig Harbor. The menu includes build-your-own burritos along with various Mexican dishes. The bar is cordoned off so the restaurant is family-friendly.
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