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Anticipation grows for downtown co-op

Sun., April 19, 2009, 7:29 a.m.

If you haven’t heard about Main Market Co-op yet, you need to know that something exciting is coming to downtown Spokane this fall.

This member-owned co-op is under construction at 44 W. Main in the former Goodyear Tire building. It will include a grocery store that showcases foods produced by local farmers, ranchers and fishermen year-round; a commercial kitchen where dishes will be prepared using locally grown food; and a rooftop greenhouse and raised-bed garden that utilizes compost made from the kitchen waste – all in a building with a minimal carbon footprint.

“The co-op will feature every element of food production, from farm to table, all in one box,” says Jennifer Hall, who is spearheading the project. “We want to remind people of the importance of sustainable food production and its impact on the health of the planet.”

In phase one of the project, structural support is being added to the building in order to accommodate the rooftop gardens. A 22-by 30-foot greenhouse will be set up first, with plans to grow organic produce throughout the year that will be prepared in the kitchen. The heat from the kitchen will be recycled in order to keep the greenhouse warm.

Phase two, which will take place in about a year, includes the construction of several raised beds that will be set up on the roof to take advantage of the building’s southern exposure. They plan to grow heirloom varieties of vegetables, including types rarely seen by consumers because they don’t ship well.

“We would love to incorporate volunteer help from gardeners in the community when we get to that point,” Hall says.

Produce from the garden will be sold in the co-op’s grocery store.

All of this, of course, takes money, which will come from memberships and fundraising events. For example, there will be a dinner (sold out) at the Glover Mansion on Wednesday that is part of the Co-op’s “At the Table” educational series. It launches the idea of having producers available to answer questions by members of the community.

“Each table will have two hosts: one will be a co-op board or staff member and the other will be a local producer who we will be buying from regularly,” Hall explains.

“We chose to hold a dinner as a fundraiser because throughout our lives, at every personal celebration, we naturally come together at the table. And we wanted to promote a food event surrounding Earth Day.”

Hall feels the dinner is a good example of how Main Market Co-op can build a relationship within the community. Most of the food will come from the producers present at the event.

In addition to its “At the Table” series, Main Market will present two other educational programs on an ongoing basis: “In the Field,” on-site tours of local farms and ranches, and “Behind the Scenes,” a monthly guided tour demonstrating all of the ways the co-op building is green.

Benefits of becoming a co-op member include member-only sales, case discounts, free classes, a year-end shopping dividend and discounts on renting freezer lockers.

A growing membership “will help us get the doors open sooner and raise the capital needed to showcase the greenhouse and landscaping that will make it a unique eco-friendly asset downtown,” Hall says.

Beyond that, it demonstrates support for the sustainable producers in this region.

“We want to be a source of education about where food comes from,” adds Hall. “People will see all these varieties of produce at our store and in our prepared foods. Then they can go up to the roof and see them growing in our garden. It’s an opportunity for us to be a catalyst in the community.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at

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