Thursday, April 5, 2012

Olympia Local Foods Receives Grant To Fulfill Dream

Above: Tom Husmann, center, owner of Olympia Local Foods, accepts a mock check this morning from Carlotta Donisi and Mario Villanueva, both with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.

Olympia Local Foods Receives Grant To Fulfill Dream

By Janine Unsoeld

Business owner Tom Husmann of Olympia Local Foods held a celebratory grand opening event this morning to acknowledge his receipt of a $300,000 “value added producer” grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Program. The program helps agriculture producers increase use of their products.

Representatives of that agency, as well as several others who assisted Husmann with receiving the grant, were on hand to congratulate him and speak to the niche he and his wife Celia are filling in helping local farmers find new markets for their products.

“It was a pleasure to work with Tom on this grant opportunity made available through USDA. Accessing available grant programs is a function of matching goals with the purposes and the rules of potential grants. In Tom’s case, we helped him match his intentions - and his grand vision - with our grant,” said Diane Gasaway, executive director of the Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC).

The NWCDC became involved because of Husmann’s purpose to benefit numerous small growers and producers through his business, including a shared kitchen cooperative venture which is still in the initial planning stages.

“I’m sure Tom would agree there were moments of frustration while writing this grant, but his motivation to make his business move forward helped keep us focused, and promises to benefit not only his pastured raised poultry business, but the small producer community in Thurston County. He’s very good at keeping his eyes on the prize,” said Gasaway.

Husmann thanked those involved in helping his business receive the grant, and described the partnerships created throughout the process. In 2008 he and his wife bought a farm outside Chehalis with the dream of producing quality food. He said the process brought up a lot of questions, but he took a scientific approach, and created a website as a virtual farmstand to find out what local products were available and what people were willing to pay.

He also discovered that poultry was an underserved niche in the area. “Now we know who the customers are, what they’ll pay, and how we’ll get it to them. Without the assistance of the rural development program, we wouldn’t have realized our dream, heap the reward of a sustainable farm, and raise our family the way we want to,” said Husmann.

The mock check presented to Husmann is made out to Tachira, Inc. Tachira, Husmann said, stands for Tom And Celia Husmann Inspiration for Rural Agriculture.

Above: Zena Edwards, left, Washington State University's Thurston County interim director of food safety and nutrition, speaks with Lisa Smith, executive director for Enterprise for Equity today at Olympia Local Foods.

Husmann is a 2010 graduate of the Enterprise for Equity program. Lisa Smith, executive director for the program, attended the event, and was enthusiastic in her praise for Husmann.

“When we have funding, a vision, and connections, you have a way of providing the synergy to move things forward,” she said.

Husmann has worked with as many as 50 farmers and local businesses in the last year. To match available products with customers, farmers log onto the Olympia Local Food website and post their available inventory. Customers then place their orders online from Thursday evening through Tuesday morning at Tickets are sent to the farmers letting them know what sold, and the farmers deliver the product to the store. Customer pickup is on Thursdays between 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Available products at Olympia Local Foods vary week to week, but generally include meats, dairy, deli items, eggs, mushrooms, seafood, and herbs. Produce is currently unavailable. Husmann says, “It’s hard in the winter to come up with fresh produce, and we didn’t want people to be greeted with produce from California at our grand opening, but we will be carrying it.”

Olympia Local Foods is located in a sunny, spacious building at 2010 Black Lake Boulevard, Building B, in West Olympia. Near the Black Lake/Cooper Point Road intersection, take the driveway tucked between Sushi House restaurant and a Texaco gas station to find the building.

Starting April 16, the store will be open for regular walk-in retail service 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. everyday except Saturday.

Above: Local businesses show a sense of humor...this hot sauce at Olympia Local Foods was...cluckin' hot!