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Store is icing on cake for 60-acre farm operation



Photo Credit: COURTESY OF SHAWN LINEHAN - The brightly lit Our Table Cooperative grocery store includes loads of local and organic producWalking into the new Our Table Cooperative grocery store, customers are greeted by a brightly lit, 30-foot-tall vaulted ceiling in the atrium.

But it’s taking those few extra steps that will impress customers entering the 800-square-foot grocery store where many of the products carry a Certified Local Food red label signifying that those products are grown by the cooperative or its regional producer members.

That means that the mushrooms come from Yamhill, the salmon from Community Supported Fisheries out of Garibaldi and all the pumpkins, squash, potatoes and onions grown at the 60-acre on-site farm, according to Narendra Varma, Our Table founder.

The new store, which held a grand opening Nov. 8, carries local dairy products, produce, meat, health and wellness products and dry goods.

“The idea is over 85 percent (of the store’s products are) Oregon-sourced and over 85 percent is organic,” said Varma. “If you really want to eat organic, this is the place to do it.”

Varma, a former Microsoft employee, along with his wife Machelle, purchased the sprawling farm cooperative at 13390 S.W. Morgan Road in 2011.

Photo Credit: GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Our Table Cooperative has opened a grocery store on the farm on Morgan Road. Some of the folks who make the operation a success include bottom row, from left, Matthew Goolsby, Jen Tobener, Gianna Banducci, and Eugenio Ramirez; back row, Brenna Wilson, Anatolio Cruz, Colleen Mendola, Louis Kemp and  Narendra
Varma.
In addition to produce and meats, the new store is also carrying an assortment of bulk foods along with dry goods such as toilet paper and laundry detergent. There’s even a selection of products produced by the Happy Hippie Soap Company.

In addition, Our Table boasts a new 800-square-foot commercial kitchen, which creates the grocery store’s homemade soups, pestos, jams and other products. And the kitchen will soon begin rolling out homemade lasagna and pie.

To help with that venture, Varma hired local chef Brenna Wilson.

“I love it,” Wilson said of her new job, noting that she’s been astounded by the community support. “It’s a good place for me to be.”

In addition to cooking up many of the products for the adjoining store, Wilson will continue to create pop-up dinners for area residents as well. She produced Our Table’s first prepared food product last fall, a limited-edition winter squash soup sold through Portland’s Green Zebra Grocery.

Varma said that to make sure all the products they carry are up to Our Table’s standards, they vet each producer and vendor.

While the food carried at the store is impressive, so is the structure itself, which includes huge rough-hewn support timbers that came from a 100-year-old barn on the farm’s property. The store’s weathered siding came from that same barn.

Like many of the vegetables in the Our Table grocery, chicken products come from some of the 1,000 animals raised at the farm and eggs that are produced by the farm’s 150 laying hens.

Meanwhile, the store also carries a sizeable selection of local beers and wines, as well as serving an IPA, a local kombucha (a fermented tea drink), and red and white wines on tap. All can be taken out in growlers, said Varma.

While the store is a new attraction at Our Table, the farm continues to focus on its production of 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of blueberries annually, grown on nine acres of property.

Customers to Our Table Cooperative grocery store will notice not only an exterior of the store that includes reclaimed barn wood but they'll be greeted by a brightly lit, 30-foot-tall vaulted ceiling in the atrium as well. Since Our Table it is a cooperative, members include farmers, regional producers and customers, and memberships can be purchased.

When the grocery hosted its grand opening on Nov. 8, an estimated 350 people showed up, surprising even Varma. The farm and grocery ventures have grown; they even have a large cold-storage facility where produce is stored until distributed. Our Table now employs 16 full-time employees.

“I’m thrilled,” Varma said of the farm’s new venture. “I mean, the community support we received... is unprecedented.”

For more on Our Table Cooperative, visit OurTable.us.

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