It's been called the slow food or whole food or organic food movement. Whatever you call it, it's continuing to gain momentum across the country and here in the north state as well.
The latest and most exciting development is the North Valley Co-op, which is planning to open on July 1 on the alley side of the Cascade Square building, on the southeast corner of Placer and California streets in downtown Redding.
The co-op would consist of a whole foods grocery store, featuring food and products from area farmers, ranchers and producers. It would also include a community kitchen utilized by the Healthy Lunch & Lifestyles Project for area schools, farmers, area chefs and co-op members. The kitchen will also be used for cooking and nutrition classes.
The co-op will fill a large, warehouse-style space on the rear side of the Craig Kraffert's Cascade Square building. The endeavor is a collaboration between Healthy Shasta (a multi-agency task force), Slow Food Shasta Cascade, Healthy Lunch Project and a number of interested area residents. Co-op members would own the business, and a steering committee would oversee it.
A fundraiser and membership kick-off event is set for 6 p.m. May 15 at the co-op. The event will include an "Iron Chef"-style cookoff featuring chefs Cal DeMercurio of Rivers Restaurant, Che Stedman of Moonstone Bistro, and Wes Matthews of Market Street Steakhouse. (Anewscafe.com's own Doni Greenberg will be a judge for the event.) Tickets are $40 and available here.
An assortment of factors have pushed people toward buying and eating locally grown whole foods and products. Most believe the food tastes better and is more healthy because it's not mass produced or heavily processed. There's also the satisfaction of knowing you're supporting area farmers and producers, and, thus, the local economy.
The North Valley Co-op will work with growers who are generally within a 200-mile radius of Redding, said Bridgette Brick-Wells, administrator of the Healthy Lunch & Lifestyles Project and a member of the steering committee.
The co-op is pushing for one-time, $50 memberships for the endeavor. Residents won't need a membership to shop at the co-op, but the membership will come with discount incentives. Getting a large base of members will help the co-op keep its prices down, Brick-Wells added.
Having a consistent outlet for their products, beyond the weekend farmers' markets, seems like a good deal for area producers. The markets are a good place to sell, but they can also be time-consuming. Growers and producers need time to work on their crops and produce their products.
The co-op store will also feature a deli and bakery, and be an outlet for other locally produced products like art, music CDs, books and more.
For those who have fallen in love with co-ops in cities like Chico, Arcata and Ashland, the looming North Valley Co-op certainly seems like an exciting prospect. In addition to Orchard Nutrition Center, Trader Joe's, a pair of organic food delivery services (Country Organics and Churn Creek Meadow Organic Farm), and the large Saturday farmers' market at City Hall, it appears Shasta County is pretty hip to the organic, whole foods movement.
A local showing of the documentary "Food, Inc." attracted some 500 people. It seems more folks are realizing every day the importance of putting healthy foods into their bodies.
And, like a lot of things, how did we ever get so far away from that ethic?
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight's D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.