Submitted by Taproot Kitchen
The dream of creating a shared-use commercial processing facility and community kitchen on Lopez, first envisioned in the 90s, is finally coming to fruition. Taproot Community Kitchen, the nonprofit spearheading the effort, is building out a space on Dill Road that will provide commercial-grade food processing equipment and long-term refrigerated storage to both businesses and the general public. Taproot’s mission is to increase local economic opportunity for food producers and processors, support sustainable agriculture and strengthen island food resiliency. In other words: help produce great local food!
From the start this has been a grassroots effort. Earlier this autumn, a generous donor offered a $10,000 matching funds challenge. Donations large and small now exceed $12,000! This funding enables Taproot to complete critical improvements such as upgrading the plumbing and electrical facilities, adding more sinks, and installing a commercial hot water heater (thanks to a Lopez Thrift Store grant).
When this round of construction is completed, four primary objectives for the kitchen can be realized. The first is to provide facilities for small food processing businesses whose production is supervised by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Chicaoji Sauce and Kraut Pleasers are two notable local entrepreneurs who have been using the Taproot kitchen for some time in this capacity, (and we will all be glad to have them resume production).
The second objective is to provide a San Juan County Health Department-approved commercial kitchen for those who produce food that is sold directly to consumers, like caterers, farmers market vendors,and food trucks.
Thirdly, the kitchen will provide community members with access to commercial-grade food processing equipment for their own uses, for example, fruit processing or dehydration.
The fourth objective is to offer educational resources for food safety and processing, the necessary information for small business start-ups, and a supportive community of fellow food processors.
Taproot is one facet of the mutually supportive enterprises that nourish our community. Barbara Gurley, director of the Lopez Island Family Resource Center, appreciates that Taproot collaborated with the LIFRC’s Glean Team to nourish the community through this long cold winter. Fifty volunteers, led by the energetic coordinator Dixie Budke, gathered nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit from local trees that will be distributed to Lopez Fresh Food Bank, Lopez School, Hamlet House, Meals on Wheels and the senior center. Taproot’s cold storage unit allows ripening fruit to be preserved until processed and distributed by the Lopez Locavores to these same groups.
Taproot aims to reinforce the connections between local food, land stewardship, community health and economic prosperity. This is a community project, and local involvement is essential. Lopez farmers and teachers Henning Sehmsdorf and Elizabeth Simpson realize this on a deep level. As an LCLT board member in the 1990s, Henning helped establish the USDA Mobile [meat] Processing Unit. Their generous donation put Taproot over its matching funds goal. They said, “We have believed in the importance of a community kitchen for as long as we have been on this island. We are profoundly happy that Taproot is coming to fruition and think that it is well worth our community investment.”
Throughout the years, many locals have donated time, money and heartfelt support to help manifest the dream of local food abundance.
There are many ways you can help. Donating toward further infrastructure is one way: Taproot’s next planned but unfunded equipment additions are a walk-in refrigerator and a gas range and hood. Another way is to help put the kitchen back together. Or, you can simply imagine your pantry stocked with delicious and nourishing local foods.
Learn more at lopeztaproot.org