News

Local Food Security: Beyond 2020

December 2020

Food insecurity became a focus of much attention in 2020. The circumstances arising from a global pandemic pointedly revealed the fragilities in our food systems and supply chains. It also exposed the most vulnerable among us to immediate threats of food, health, and financial insecurities.

Wages and salaries on Lopez Island are among the lowest in Washington State. Job opportunities that pay a “livable” wage are scarce, as the primary economic activities of our community are farming, seasonal tourism, retail and related services. Many of our family members, neighbors, and friends were already struggling to meet their basic needs. COVID-19 made their problems exponentially worse.

The Lopez community rose to meet these challenges in many ways. Our food-based support system began collaborating in new and innovative activities. Generous donors funded a study of overall community (food security) needs. San Juan County Food Hub, the Lopez Island Family Resource Center (LIFRC), the Lopez Locavores and Taproot Kitchen joined this effort to assess the feasibility of creating a Lopez-based food center. Ideally, a coalition of organizations residing under one roof could leverage each other’s strengths, expand markets for local food and create opportunities for local farmers and food producers. The food center building would provide the necessary infrastructure for collecting, storing, processing and distributing farm produce and value-added products.

The Food Hub, one of many of such hubs nationwide, facilitates collection and distribution of locally produced foods. The Food Hub connects dozens of San Juan County farmers and food processors with hundreds of consumers on their own and other islands. During 2020, Taproot Kitchen provided the Lopez Island “spoke” of the Hub’s food aggregation and distribution system.

“Stand Up for Lopez, a Pandemic Food Security Program” was initiated by the LIFRC. Again, thanks to incredibly generous donors, LIFRC began feeding Islanders by purchasing food directly from 19 local farmers and restaurants and then distributing fresh produce and meals through the newly formed Lopez Food Bank. (Grace Church Food Bank and LIFRC Lopez Fresh decided to join forces to more efficiently distribute food to our community.) The following link connects to a video which further explains this collaboration.

The Lopez Locavores took on an additional food security project during and worked hard to process Island produce into frozen meals to be distributed through the Food Bank throughout the long cold and hungry days of Winter. http://lopezlocavores.org Summer’s fresh veggies and fruits became Winter’s nourishment, thanks to these hardworking volunteers.

Taproot Kitchen served as a lynch pin in all of these efforts by providing storage space, distribution facilities and a processing venue.

In October of 2020, Taproot’s walk-in refrigerator, a purchase funded by a $21,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), arrived at our kitchen facilities. Taproot Kitchen is now equipped with “state of the art” commercial-grade appliances including a food dehydrator, tilting blender, steam jacketed kettle, immersion blender, food processors and fruit wedger/corer. Installation of the walk-in refrigerator will be completed early in 2021.

2021 will also bring Taproot Kitchen to the start of the next phase of our business plan. We are applying for a new grant from the USDA in February. If awarded, grant funds will be used to purchase and install a commercial oven, cooktop, range hood and ancillary kitchen equipment. The preliminary cost estimate for this project is $65,000.

The mission of Taproot includes creating jobs by promoting local economic opportunity and entrepreneurship; encouraging local agriculture; and improving Island food resiliency. To be successful in competing for USDA grant funds in 2021, Taproot must demonstrate the availability of about $30,000 in matching donations.

If you believe in the importance of local food security and job creation, please donate to this infrastructure upgrade by February. You can securely make a tax deductible donation online on the Taproot website or send a check to Taproot Kitchen, PO Box 551, Lopez Island, WA 98261.

This donation will help make our USDA grant application a success. Your gift will also improve Lopez Island’s food processing capability, making for a stronger link in the supply chain from local farms to ‘plates and bowls.’

Thank you,
The Taproot Crew

LIFRC – Stand Up for Lopez, a Pandemic Food Security Program

~~~~~~~~~~

October 2020

Taproot Kitchen Walk-in Refrigerator Installation

We are delighted to announce that Taproot’s brand-new, commercial walk-in refrigerator has arrived! Community volunteers unloaded the components and have assembled the box. The peripheral construction and utility hook-ups are in the works.

In 2019 Taproot received a $21,000 grant from the WSDA to purchase and install a 10’x11′ walk-in. This unit adds to the Lopez Island community’s core food security infrastructure.

Thanks to all the volunteers, including those who helped prepare for this USDA Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG), and to the taxpayers who have so generously strengthened our Island’s agricultural and small business economy and food security.

Local food entrepreneurs such as food trucks, Saturday/Winter Market vendors and processors creating shelf-ready products for stores will use the walk-in. Also, the SJI Food Hub, Lopez Food Bank, Gleaners, Locavores, LIFRC and individual community members will use it.

It is wonderful to add this cold storage capability to the Lopez Island’s food security infrastructure. Many people, some yet unborn, will be nourished with the help of this essential piece of equipment.


The intrepid Taproot Kitchen volunteers unloaded the truck. Jim thinks he’s funny.
The Taproot Kitchen Walk-in installed.

March 10, 2020

The coming of the light at Taproot

Rave to the anonymous donor who paid for installation of solar panels at Lopez Storage for the benefit and use of Taproot, Lopez’ community kitchen. The panels will power up commercial food processing equipment and cold storage space while reducing our carbon footprint.

As the days get longer, we continue to grow. The taproot is going down deep and solar ray leaves going up!

Get in touch to see how you can use Taproot kitchen for your commercial or personal food-processing adventures. info@lopeztaproot.org


December 20, 2019

Taproot’s Making News, County-Wide

It’s been a fruitful and productive year at Taproot Kitchen. As 2019 winds down, we want to take a moment to thank you for all you’ve done to support Taproot through a major transformation. It would not be possible without the generous time and resources members of the community have provided.

We’re also excited that the good news about Lopez Island’s own commercial, community kitchen is getting recognized beyond our shores. Three weekly island papers published an article about Taproot, which is included below. We’re on our way to a stronger food system, more entrepreneurial opportunities for our community, and lots of tasting things being developed in the kitchen.

Next Steps: New Walk-in Fridge!
We continue to look towards the future and taking on a new phase to improve Taproot’s capacity, including the installation of a large commercial walk-in refrigerator, partially funded by a United States Department of Agriculture grant, to significantly expand refrigerated storage capacity.

Please consider a year-end donation to enable Taproot to make even bigger strides in 2020. Donate online at: https://lopeztaproot.org/support/ or send a check to Taproot, A Lopez Kitchen, P.O. Box 551, Lopez Island, WA, 98261. Thank you!!


December 17, 2019

Phase One of Taproot Kitchen Build-out Complete. The Kitchen is Open.

By Taproot Board

Full text article available at The Islands’ Sounder and The Journal of the San Juan Islands.

Taproot Kitchen on Dill Road re-opened for business thanks to many volunteers and contributors. Over the year, significant infrastructure upgrades added a whole new level of opportunity for local entrepreneurs, strengthening Taproot’s capacity as a WSDA licensed food processing facility (think food on the grocery store shelf) and processing for home use. The improvements allow Taproot to be used by vendors who need San Juan County Health Department permits (think Farmers Market food vendors).

The kitchen is ready to bring your creative culinary skills to life. Equipment available for use include:
–Robot Coupe MP550 Turbo 21″ Immersion Blender: This powerful tool creates sauces makes quick work of blending produce.
–Robot Coupe CL50 Ultra Continuous Feed Food Processor slices and dices at an industrial scale.
–OMCAN 6-gallon tilting blender to make batches of sauce and dressings.
–An industrial fruit corer/wedger to prepares apples and pears for saucing and dehydrating. This device removes the cores and slices fruit into wedges much more efficiently than can be done by hand.
–A 20 rack commercial food dehydrator with adjustable temperature and 3-speed fans; dries up to 100 pounds of fruit a day.
–Induction burners for cooking up your dreams.
–Commercial refrigerator and freezer to keep your product fresh and at the correct temperature for food safety standards.
Full equipment list and facility use pricing is here: LopezTaproot.org/the-kitchen/

If you wish to use the kitchen, develop a business which uses the kitchen, or want to get in touch for any reason, contact us at: info@lopeztaproot.org.


September 26, 2019

Taproot Kitchen passed SJC Health Department inspection!!

Another step forward! Last week, the SJC Health Department inspector visited the Taproot Kitchen. She came. She saw. She approved.

The kitchen is now open and ready for all kinds of users. Whether processing for home use or commercial, Taproot is the spot for you.

And keep your eyes open for an announcement of kitchen use training. Get in touch to sign up and learn more about what Taproot Kitchen has to offer: info@lopeztaproot.org

Donations always welcome to keep the knife slicing and Taproot’s doors open: lopeztaproot.org/donate

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. 
The Taproot Crew


August 23, 2019

Opening the door to food security and entrepreneurship

Big news! Taproot passed its San Juan County building inspection for occupancy. Right off the bat this means two groups can use the kitchen: People who want to do non-commercial processing for personal consumption and people who want to manufacture commercial products as a WSDA (Washington State Dept. of Agriculture) licensed food processor.

Now for those planning to use Taproot as a commercial kitchen to prepare direct-to-consumer foods, for example for catering or Farmer’s Market prep, we have one more hurdle: an inspection by the San Juan County Health Department. We will let you know when that happens.

To clarify, the WSDA certifies “food processing facilities” and the SJC Health Department certifies “commercial kitchens”. It’s a somewhat confusing but important difference.

Jim Birkemeier prepping pears for dehydration using brand-new corer/wedger equipment.
Jim Birkemeier prepping pears for dehydration using brand-new corer/wedger equipment.

If you want to use Taproot for any reason, send an email to info@lopeztaproot.org and we will let you know how to get started.

Let us all give thanks to the many supporters, volunteers and donors who helped to get us this far. It has been a long slog and we are so pleased that we are one step closer to our goal of local food and economic security.


June 17, 2019

We know you’ve been waiting for Taproot’s re-opening.

Take a look behind the scenes on Dill Road and you’ll find a bevy of dedicated workers and volunteers creating a new Taproot kitchen that will knock your socks off. New flooring, pallet-sized doors, bright lighting, and a solid electrical system mean Taproot is set to be a unique resource for local food producers, whether commercial, non-profit, or home-use.

Ted Warner applying the floor.
Ted Warner applying the floor

Construction continues at a good clip now. Sheet-rocking, mudding, taping, painting, painting, painting. It’s all part of the process and the end is in sight.

Chris Coiley works on mudding the ceiling.
Chris Coiley works on mudding the ceiling.

We’re also hard at work defining the processes and policies for use of the shiny, new facilities. For instance, we’ll have guidance ready to help new food entrepreneurs navigate the murky waters of vendor licensing and processing. In other words, we’ll help you figure out what you need to make and sell your products.

Re-opening is so close now, you can almost taste it!


June 2, 2019

There’s a Big, New Blender Coming to Lopez Thanks to Lopez Thrift Shop

Through their generous grants to Taproot and Lopez Locavores, a lot more people will have access to healthy, local produce. Taproot is now able to purchase a commercial quality immersion blender, perfect for processing fruit and veggies.

This tool will be located in the Taproot Kitchen on Dill Road and available for local commercial processors and public use. It will also be used by the Lopez Locavores to process fruit gleaned from local farms, orchards, and home gardens. Instead of going to waste, these apples, pears, and other island gems will be washed, dried, sauced, frozen, or otherwise preserved to be distributed to our island community over the lean winter months. Lopez Fresh, the school, the Senior Center, Hamlet, and Meals on Wheels will all benefit from the great generosity of the Lopez Thrift Shop.

Thanks Lopez Thrift Shop!

Get in touch with us to learn how you can use the blender to turn your raw produce into something more. Email us at info@lopeztaproot.org


May 2019

Taproot Kitchen awarded $2,500 grant from Orcas Island Co-op FARM Fund Grant!

YeeHaw!! Taproot Kitchen on Lopez Island just received a $2,500 grant from the Orcas Island Farm Fund Grant program!

This generous grant enables Taproot to purchase food-processing equipment for use by local food producers, processors, farmers, and community members.

For example, the Lopez Locavores will use Taproot equipment to process gleaned fruit.

This is a volunteer-driven effort to preserve food gleaned from local farms and home gardens. 9,200 pounds of gleaned fruit was harvested in the 2018/19 season and distributed to several community groups. This coming season Taproot will be ready to assist the Locavores’ efforts even better.

The FARM Fund started on Orcas Island through the Orcas Food Co-op. It is currently funded by a combination of 0.5% of all sales in the Orcas Food Co-op produce department, funds raised as part of the Orcas Food Co-op “Community Hero” program and other community donations. This is the first year the FARM Fund has accepted applications county-wide. We are thrilled and thankful to Orcas Food Co-op for supporting healthy and productive food systems throughout the islands.  

The nonprofit Taproot Kitchen provides commercial grade food-processing equipment for small food businesses and to help locals to efficiently feed their families. Contact Taproot to learn more about how you can use the equipment.

Thank you Orcas Food Co-op and all y’all Orcatrazians for generously supporting food security in the San Juan Islands. Put another star next to your name!


April 2019

Remodel continues.

Walls are painted. The resurfacing of the floor and installation of the Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic panels on the walls. (That’s the wall covering you see in commercial kitchens that uneven like the skin of an orange but super cleanable and white.

Watch your email if you’ve already signed up to help or write us a info@lopeztaproot.org to find out how to help with the next steps.


December 2018

$10,000 Challenge Grant met!

We all did it! Thanks to all the generous donations, the Taproot Matching Funds Challenge has been not only been met but exceeded!

We collected almost $13,000!

Read the Islands Weekly article about Taproot’s fundraising success and community commitment.

Thanks to everyone for your ongoing support!


CoolBot walk-in cooler that was loaded with food feed people all winter.

The CoolBot walk-in cooler has apples, pears, asian pears, buckets of pickles and a LOT of  kiwi fruit. Some of this belongs to individuals but the vast bulk of fruit put into the CoolBot this season has been picked by the Lopez Island Gleaners. They’ve picked about 9,000 pounds of fruit so far this year!

The Gleaner program has two operational “branches” coordinated by the energetic Dixie Budke.

  • Lopez Island Family Resouce Center Harvest Glean Team: Picks fruit
  • Lopez Locavore Culinary Glean Team: Processes fruit

The Taproot Coolbot provides critical infrastructure to support both of these branches. Cold storage allows the fresh fruit to be preserved until it can either be served directly or processed into value added products like sauces, frozen and dried fruit, juices and so forth. This collaboration feeds the community through the Lopez Fresh Food Bank, Senior Meals, and the kids at school.


…And back to the upgrade update…

Pitch in and help with the construction phase. Contact us at <info@lopeztaproot.org> for details. This is going to be fun!!

Get on mailing list: Subscribe if you’d like to get updates about Taproot’s progress or get notification of work parties and such. There should be a pop up box to subscribe on this page or scroll down to the bottom of the page and subscribe.


Taproot in the Press

Published by Islands Weekly, November 12, 2016

By Gretchen Wing

The logo of the Taproot beet announces its vision: Taproot is a kitchen grounded deep in community to produce nutritious food. Community members dismayed at seeing the Taproot sign disappear from the site of the former Blossom Grocery should rest assured: Taproot is growing in a new location on Dill Road, in the island’s center.

Co-founders Randall Waugh and Jean Perry, like many other islanders, have dreamed about this project for years. Waugh compares Taproot’s inception to “a seed waiting years for the right conditions to sprout.” According to Perry, owner of Vortex, the availability of the Village site “seemed a prompt too good to pass up, and the wheels of community kitchen activism started to turn. Again.” From Vancouver, Washington, Lissa Pfandler joined Perry and Waugh to form a Board of Directors, which filed as a non-profit and began laying the groundwork for an ongoing, shared-use commercial kitchen.

According to Taproot’s website, “It is vitally important that local producers have a place to make their products, and it is fitting that the cost of that facility be shared by many hands. This kitchen will benefit all of us, by enabling small businesses to expand, innovate, and flourish. We hope to help people create healthy, locally made products that will eventually become an integral part of the food-web of the San Juan Islands.”

Unfortunately, funding for the Village space became problematic.

“It became daunting to raise funds quickly enough to keep the project moving forward without draining resources on rent, utilities, and insurance,” Perry explains. So the board found a new option.

The Dill Road site, where Waugh creates his well-known Chicaoji sauce, presents some challenges, but even more promises. The immediate hurdle is that the kitchen is set up strictly for commercial production of specific products approved by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, like Chicaoji. “Any other [shelf-ready] product can jump right in and get their licensing from the WSDA,” says Perry, but “prep food” for catering or Farmer’s Market is not yet allowed. But, with community help, the Taproot board intends to make the improvements necessary to achieve this capability.

Participation in Taproot will comprise a combination of membership plus user fees, still to be determined. Currently, the board wants more stakeholders at the ground level. Help in any form is welcome: volunteer time to shape bylaws and operations; funds to install the facility’s equipment; labor to convert the space; social media work to spread the word.

Hal Seifert, owner of the Dill Road facility, is “super excited” about Taproot moving in. “Once it gets up and running more and more people will see the value in utilizing a community kitchen. It’s another step in getting our food closer to the source.”

Waugh is happy to help anyone who needs assistance in obtaining WSDA approval of their product in order to join Taproot. Locals can also process food for personal consumption immediately. Taproot has already dried several hundred pounds of fruit in the commercial dehydrator donated by Jim Birkemeier.

“Imagine putting 60 pounds of fruit in the dryer at once,” said Waugh. “You can’t do that at home.”

For more information or to get involved, visit http://www.lopeztaproot.org or contact info@lopeztaproot.org.


Current use:

The Taproot Community Kitchen on Dill Road has been serving two WSDA producers, Chicaoji Sauce and Kraut Pleasers, and has also hosted a number of non-commercial endeavors like a kim chee workshop and the drying of hundreds of pounds of Lopez fruit. The day to day operations of the kitchen are entirely covered by the users, and the more users we have, the lower the costs and the more improvements we can make.

Backstory: 

Existing facilities work fine for value added products that obtain their processing authority from the WSDA (Washington State Dept of Agriculture). Direct-to-Consumer vendors (Farmers Market, catering, food trucks, etc.) need a few changes to meet San Juan County Health Dept regulations. 

Current project: Plumbing and lighting upgrade

  • install sinks and dishwasher
  • install a brand new 80 gallon hot water heater. (Thanks to the Lopez Island Thrift Shop for donating this specific item.)
  • refinish the floor
  • install vinyl wall panels

Can you help?

Tell people you know who want to process food for themselves or start/grow a small food biz that we are actually getting really close to finishing the kitchen.

Get on our email list.

Email us at info@lopeztaproot.org

Support local food security!

  1. If you want to help, email us at <info@lopeztaproot.org>
  2. Donate –
  3. Please forward this message to anyone you think might like to support local food production on Lopez Island.

Questions?

Email us at info@lopeztaproot.org…. or talk to Jean at the Vortex Cafe after 3:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday.

Get Taproot News updates via Mailchimp: Click HERE

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