Cultivating Community

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the September 2019 Issue

Cultivating Community

A new Farmer’s Market has popped up in north Edmond—and its success is staggering! The reasons? It is open daily, is mostly indoors, and is truly local.

Chris and Jennifer Webster initially started their own farm, Providence Farm, out of a recognition that healthy, organic food leads to better health and energy. They sold their produce at Farmer’s Markets and even started their own farm stand in their front yard at Waterloo & Western.

“Other farmer friends joined us, and our customer base grew to the point that, to be honest, I didn’t feel like I had privacy at home,” Jennifer said. “We knew it was time to look for a brick and mortar location. We never in a million years dreamed it would happen so quickly.”

They wanted to try a new slant on the traditional Farmer’s Market, and the opportunity presented itself in early spring when the Websters noticed the hardware store on the corner at Waterloo and Coltrane was going out of business. As a prime location off I-35, Chris and Jennifer knew it would be a great location, with a building that provided a climate-controlled option. Based on customer comments, they also knew that daily store hours would help busy families who found it inconvenient to shop on Saturday mornings.

The hardware store owner was ready to retire and sell, at a hefty 2.5 million- dollar price tag. Chris convinced him that there was a need for a new kind of Farmer’s Market; a hub where the local community could come together daily, at a site that had room for events and classes, and with providers who used no pesticides.

“Amazingly, he agreed to lease it to us!” Jennifer said. The Websters got the keys on March 31st, had a soft opening on April 6, and held their grand opening for the Conscious Community Co-Op on May 4th. Although they started with 12 vendors, they now have over 80.

“The customers enjoy interacting with the farmer, potter, quilter, leathersmith, or soap maker that they are buying from. We are also educating the community about buying local, because our customers are paying the bills for these farmers and artisans who are sometimes hanging on by a thread. It’s a struggle to produce food in a climate where we get six weeks of rain and then a month of drought,” Jennifer said.

Although the Websters are just a few months into their new venture and working 80 hours a week to get it off the ground, Jennifer is excited about the upcoming season. “In the fall we’ll focus on pumpkins, apple cider, and soup-making classes. This winter, our focus will switch to holiday gifts, such as baked goods, self-care products and art.”

Already, people from other towns are consulting with the Websters about their concept. Jennifer attributes their success to the cooperative spirit and community-mindedness of the business. The vendors commit to helping each other, but also to donating food for events that provide free food to needy neighbors.

“We think this is the start of something that can go much bigger and spread over America. Honestly, it’s been a ‘loaves and fishes’ story. We had hardly anything to sell that first weekend, but we made a nice profit. It’s so rewarding to see the farmers when we cut checks each week. Some would have no other opportunity to sell their stuff. We didn’t know this co-op thing was going to fall in our lap, but it’s been beautiful to watch the community love and support its local suppliers.”

To learn more, visit Conscious Community Co-Op on Facebook.

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