Area farmers, a restaurant owner and others interested in providing fresh produce to local residents want to gauge the community’s interest in supporting a co-op grocery in downtown Washougal.
Alex Yost, co-owner of OurBar in downtown Washougal and a member of the Washougal City Council, started the newly formed “Shougfood” group that is spearheading efforts to provide the community with year-round access to organic, sustainable and healthy food from local farms.
Yost and her husband, Kevin Credelle, purchase 90 percent of the produce used in their restaurant from the Camas Farmer’s Market and Portland-based People’s Co-Op.
Yost told Shougfood supporters during their Oct. 9 meeting the effort to open a co-op in downtown Washougal will probably be “a marathon, not a sprint,” and could take a decade before the co-op dream is realized.
Yost, along with Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance board member Susan Warford; Tyson Weaver, of Tumbling Sky Farm near Washougal in the Columbia River Gorge; and Steve Inzalaco, co-owner of the Fern Prairie-based Shady Grove Farm, have been active in Shougfood since the group started meeting in early 2018.
Yost said that, while there is support for a co-op from residents of Skamania County, Camas and Vancouver, she wants the brick and mortar co-op location to be in downtown Washougal.
“Downtown is a blank canvas,” she said. “I want (the co-op) to service people within walking and driving distance.”
Sam Jennings, of Washougal, is hoping to generate interest in the Washougal co-op by posting photos of food on Instagram.
“I want to support and promote local businesses,” Jennings said.
So far, the Shougfood Instagram account has 60 followers.
Some Shougfood members hope to visit in November with representatives of the Montavilla Food Co-Op, a group trying to bring a similar project to the East Portland Montavilla neighborhood.
“They’re much further along in the process than we are, which is why we are looking forward to connecting with them about what their journey has been like,” Yost said.
Inzalaco and Aggie Blackmer hosted the Oct. 9 Shougfood meeting, which first included an informal tour of Inzalaco’s farm filled with lettuce and cucumbers, followed by the meeting inside Blackmer’s house. Inzalaco and his wife, Lindsay, lease land near Grove Field Airport from Blackmer.
Shady Grove Farm provides vegetables to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers on a weekly basis. Their “mobile market mobile,” as Steve calls it, is a trailer with a cooler used to transport vegetables to the Camas and Vancouver farmers markets.
A community survey, available at shougfood.org, includes questions about whether shoppers purchase groceries based on convenience, price, dietary needs, supporting local providers or diversity of product available.
The survey also wants to know: “If a local grocery store that sells fresh, organic produce and dry goods was located in downtown Washougal, how often would you use it?”
The next Shougfood meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 4, at OurBar, 1887 Main St., Washougal. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.