Keep an eye out for one of these vans making a delivery around Bainbridge Island.(courtesty photo)

Kitsap Fresh expanding to delivery service

BI first to get food from Poulsbo warehouse

Kitsap Fresh, a farming co-op, has expanded its Poulsbo warehouse to offer a fresh food delivery service, starting with Bainbridge Island.

“We like to call it an online farmer’s market,” said Erin Smith, president of Kitsap Fresh. “We are actually a co-op of farmers. Our farmers are member-owners, and we work with local food producers like bakeries to make it easy for consumers to get fresh goods through digital aggregation.”

Kitsap Fresh allows customers to purchase online directly from local farmers, their purchases are packaged at the warehouse and then made available at various locations across Kitsap County for customers to pick up.

”We can go all year, unlike a normal farmer’s market,” Smith said, adding their open 51 weeks a year because it is mostly done online.

Kitsap Fresh marketing manager Julia Zander added: “It’s a really good supplementary business model for a lot of our farmers and producers as well that do farmer’s markets or sell directly from their farms. It gives them another outlet for them to get directly to consumers.”

Smith explained that farmers need a middle of the week option to sell their produce and that this service helps fill that void.

“Farmers need to harvest and sell crops more than once a week so the online marketplace provides a platform for local farms and food businesses to sell their products,” Smith said.

She said each week producers list their available items by Friday evening, and customers can shop online Saturday and Sunday, then the ordered items are aggregated at the warehouse, and every Wednesday orders are delivered to six countywide locations with contactless curbside pickup.

Now, with the recent expansion of the warehouse, and a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kitsap Fresh is piloting a delivery service, starting on Bainbridge Island, starting at $16 and hoping to expand across the county.

“We’re excited to provide fresh local food to more members of our community,” Smith said.

Like many businesses, Kitsap Fresh has to adjust due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to close for about a week to develop a better system to keep all the food and the warehouse safe as well as the farmers and aggregators,” Smith said. “On the consumer end, we previously had a self-service system… that system wasn’t going to be feasible with COVID. So we invented a new system that had paid attendants at each location.”

As a result they cut back from 10 locations to six. Despite that, Kitsap Fresh’s sales went up about 300 percent and had a surge in employment.

Finished product! Volunteers at Kitsap Fresh package food to be picked up or delivered from its Poulsbo warehouse. ( courtesy photo)

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