Co-op Lecture: the Growing local Farm to Table Movement

Chef Marco Davis

For the second year in a row, we’re joining forces with the smart ladies from American Association of University Women (AAUW) to host a lecture called “Food Culture of the Lower Columbia: the growing Farm to Table Movement” in February. Farmers and chefs will make up a panel that will discuss the opportunities and challenges of sourcing fresh local food on a commercial scale. The panel includes Eric Bechard of Albatross, Marco Davis of the Columbian Café, Johnny Besch of Pickled Fish, Fred Johnson of Fred’s Homegrown and Teresa Retzlaff of 46 North Farm.

AAUW will lead the discussion in a question and answer format that the group traditionally uses at its candidate forums. Meredith Payton of AAUW came up with the concept of featuring local food culture in an educational way and asked if the Co-op would like to be involved. Last year the duo teamed up to do a lecture on local food culture, and this year’s theme places an emphasis on the growing farm to table movement.

“When Meredith Payton from AAUW and I talked about a theme for this year’s lecture, the farm to table movement made a lot of sense because there has been an increased interest regarding local sourcing at restaurants in the area, and we at the Co-op are lovers of local food,” our marketing director, Zetty Nemlowill said.

The Co-op offers monthly food and wellness lectures at Fort George Brewery called “Beers to Your Health”.  Every second Thursday of the month the good folks at the brewery let us use their events space in the showroom (a former Cadillac dealership located in the Lovell Building) on 14th and Duane Street, which is less than a block away from the Co-op. We join the ranks of the Maritime Museum, Clatsop Community College, and Lewis & Clark National Historical Park in organizing these Thursday evening talks for the community. These are fun and casual events where you can order a craft beer and food to munch on from the taproom.

When: Thursday February 12, Doors open at 6 p.m. (food and drinks available for purchase) Presentation 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Fort George Lovell Showroom, 1483 Duane St. Astoria

Spice up the Food you Cook!


Bored with cooking and want to spice things up a bit? Or perhaps you’re trying to lose weight or your doctor has told you to stay away from salt. Either way, we’ve got an event coming up for all cooks. There are methods to make food taste flavorful while being healthy, according to a local spice expert. Pat Milliman, owner of Pat’s Pantry in Astoria, will be the guest speaker at our monthly lecture, “Beers to Your Health” at Fort George Brewery.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as a Tuscan seasoning, a Mediterranean blend on oven baked chicken breasts adding flavor without salt. You can bring flavors together in a way that salt does. Lemon or citric acid can achieve that,” Milliman said.

For foodies looking for the next culinary adventure, Milliman says Zahtar; a Middle Eastern spice has been popular in the last few years. And her personal current favorite is Aleppo Pepper, a deep red crushed chili with a bit of heat and a fruity flavor. She takes it out to eat, sprinkling it on her pizza, or mixes it with scrambled eggs for breakfast—adding the spice to anything that needs a pop of flavor.

Milliman owns Pat’s Pantry with her partner Tom Leiner. The couple specializes in custom blends, combining flavors, to make it simple for their customers to add creativity to their standard recipes. The most exciting part of the business is not so much about spice, but about cooking and food in general.

“I love food. I love everything about food. I love cooking it I love talking about it, I love eating it with people, I love reading about it. I read cook books like most people read novels. In this business I get to talk to people about food every day because people are coming in sharing information with me or asking for information. I love that exchange. I’m always amazed in this little town, how many people end up here from all over the world. So I’ve met some really interesting people, and had great conversations about food,” Milliman said.

Beyond her store, Milliman is an active community member, pitching in at local non-profits; a board member of North Coast Food Web and host of “Food Talk” on Coast Community Radio.

You can attend Milliman’s lecture on Thursday January 8th at the Fort George Lovell Showroom (14th and Duane Streets in Astoria). Doors open at 6 p.m. and the talk is from 7-8 p.m. Food and drinks are available to purchase. The event is free and open to all ages.

Holiday Giving Challenge

We met our goal to provide 15 local domestic violence survivors the gift of good food from the Co-op. With your generous donations, we supplied the Harbor (Clatsop County Women’s Resource Center) with $50 Co-op gift cards. Staff there picked a set of folks who especially needed some help and hope during the holidays. It all started with a guy who won a $100 Co-op gift card for taking our survey in the fall. He decided to give it to a few people who might need it more than him. Then we started collecting money from shoppers at the registers. This is a great support to your local Co-op too. Thanks so much for your generosity!

Julie, the director of the Harbor picking up Co-op gift cards.
Julie, the director of the Harbor picking up Co-op gift cards.

“Modern Farming Pioneers” to Speak at Co-op Lecture


We’re excited to have the farmers of Washington state’s first and only certified organic cranberry farm at our next monthly lecture Beers to Your Health at Fort George Brewery. Jared Oakes & Jessika Tantisook of Starvation Alley Farms will tell their story of transitioning their bogs to organic and helping others do the same.

Starvation-AlleyStarvation Alley encompasses a total of 10 acres in Seaview Washington and Long Beach. The couple took over the farm where Oakes grew up in 2010. They wanted to farm cranberries organically, but were told by farmers and other experts that it wasn’t possible. They explored that assumption and eventually gained organic certification for their farm.

“It is hard, especially in the beginning because we didn’t have any support. If you want to learn to grow organic apples you could probably find enough stuff on line, call universities, or get advice from professionals. That wasn’t available for cranberries. As new farmers transitioning to organic we lost a lot of production for the first two years, hence the value added products,” Tantisook said.

Starvation Alley created a brand of juice that attracted the attention of the emerging craft cocktail industry. The farmers sell their product to 70 accounts, mostly bars in Portland and Seattle. They sell their juice and cranberries at farmers markets and locally at Astoria Co-op. The juice is raw, unsweetened and undiluted cranberries. It is not heated or pasteurized which Tantisook says enhances the health benefits and taste.

Starvation Alley Farms is building its research database with a goal of spreading sustainable farming and educating consumers about the food system and the importance of supporting local farmers. They are working with two other cranberry growers on the Long Beach Peninsula to transition to organic certification. There are currently only about 300 acres of organic cranberry farms in the U.S. out of 39,000 total acres of producing cranberry bogs.

Tantisook and Oakes will be here at Astoria Co-op Grocery on Thursday December 11, 4-6 p.m. offering free samples of their juice. Anyone from the public is welcome to stop by and meet the farmers and sample their products. They will then present at Beers to Your Health at the Fort George Lovell Showroom (14th and Duane St. in Astoria) starting at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. The talk is free and open to all ages.

Crooked Cow Cheese Tasting at the Co-op

Photo by Lynette McAdams
Photo by Lynette McAdams

Artisan Cheese-maker Cynthia Clark admits her business, Crooked Cow Cheese in Naselle, WA, is a way to pay for what she calls her cow habit.

“Most little girls want horses and I always wanted soft brown cows,” Cynthia said.

The Co-op recently started carrying Cynthia’s raw cheddar. Cynthia says she is passionate about caring for her cows, feeding them the best food she can afford, and treating them well. For example, she milks them just once a day, resulting in less stress for the animals. The end result is happy cows and a quality product.

The name, Crooked Cow, comes from the name of one of her three cows. Crooked, is a gigantic Brown Swiss cow. Cynthia says her milk has the right balance of fat and protein, making it ideal for cheese. Cynthia makes wheels of cheddar cheese from her cow’s milk and ages them in a temperature controlled cave for more than 90 days, creating a phenomenal flavor.
On the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, Cynthia will be at the Co-op offering samples of Crooked Cow Cheese. Stop by on November 22 from 11-1 to meet Chythia and taste her delicious cheese.

And we’ll also be having our monthly free tour, talk and taste class during the tasting.  This event focuses on the local and regional artisan cheeses the Co-op carries.  Sign up in advance.  The tour happens November 22 from 11:30-noon.

Vision for Growing our Co-op

Astoria Co-op Grocery wants to hear from you.  Throughout the month of October 2014, the community is providing input into how the Co-op grows with a survey.  You can also provide written comments in the store and via email at  In December, the Co-op board will compile all the input and draft a strategic plan which will guide the Co-op’s growth.

The Co-op board of directors and management team had a retreat in February 2014, in which a vision for the future was born. Below is a graphical rendition. Throughout the year, we’ve been asking Co-op owners and the community for feedback regarding the vision. To see the process the Co-op has undertaken, click here.

With three thousand consumer owners, plus the greater community at large, giving everyone a chance to have a voice in growth isn’t necessarily easy, and there’s no black and white approach.  But we’ve been lucky to have an experienced guide through this process, Holly O’Neil, who has worked with several other food co-ops that have led successful expansions including Community Food Co-op (Bellingham, WA), Port Townsend Food Co-op (Port Townsend, WA), and North Coast Co-op (Arcata, CA).

Please take a look at the Co-op’s vision for growth.  We’d love to hear from you!
visioning poster updated


November Beers to Your Health

We’re having a screening of the film, Food for Change, at our monthly food and wellness lecture “Beers to Your Health”. See the story of the cooperative food movement in America on Thursday November 13, at 7 p.m. in the Fort George Lovell Showroom. Doors open at 6 p.m. Food and drinks available for purchase. Free and open to all ages.

Final Food for Change PosterJ


Learn about Soup

SoupNightCome meet Maggie Stuckey, author of Soup Night.  She will be our speaker at our monthly lecture, Beers to Your Health at Fort George Brewery’s Lovell Showroom (Corner of 14th and Duane in Astoria) on Thursday October 9 at 7 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.)  Free cup of soup from a recipe in the book while supplies last.  Books will be for sale as well.


The Magic of Soup
By Maggie Stuckey, Author of Soup Night

There was a time, not all that long ago, when people knew everyone on their block, when neighbors watched out for each other, helped each other, enjoyed getting together. Nowadays, people are more likely to hurry home from work, stay inside with eyes fixed on some type of screen, interacting with pixels rather than human beings. Many of them wish things were different, but aren’t sure how to break out of their isolation.

Here’s a simple solution: make a huge pot of soup, invite your neighbors over, and watch what happens.
I can tell you what will happen, because I have seen it myself in my home town (Portland).

Within a very short time, strangers become friends. Warm connections develop between people who are very different from one another on the usual measures of occupation, education, and political persuasion. Children, under the loving watchfulness of all the adults, are free to be kids. Meanwhile, their parents are free from the awful modern anxiety of having to watch them every single second. There is less crime. Seniors and people living alone feel more secure, knowing help is right at hand.

All because they get together for a simple supper of soup and bread once a month. They call it Soup Night, and it has become a huge part of their lives. No one wants to miss it.
Once I witnessed the magic of this particular Soup Night, I decided to look a bit farther. And quickly found neighborhood groups all over the country doing much the same thing: Organizing a soup get-together for the explicit purpose of creating community. In Boston, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Denver, Tucson, folks are making soup and inviting strangers to their home — with amazing results.

Soup is simple, unpretentious, warm, nourishing (in every sense of that word), and has a way of putting people at ease. It’s also easy to make, nutritious, inexpensive, infinitely expandable, and it tastes wonderful. There is nothing better for bringing people together.

Free Fall Food Classes

Astoria Co-op offers food education for the community

These monthly 30 minute class and store tours lead you through the aisles of Astoria Co-op Grocery to learn about the many options in organic, farm direct, bulk foods, sustainably-raised products, and more.  The classes are led by store managers, staff, board members, and other community wellness educators.  Taste food you haven’t tried before and learn about how it was produced, nutritional benefits, and cooking ideas including recipes.  This is a great way to increase knowledge about the food you eat, sample new products, and have fun!   Each class participant will receive a $5 off coupon to use at the Co-op.

Upcoming Classes Calendar:

October 24, 5-5:30 p.m. Shopper’s Guide to GMO’s with Co-op GM Matt Stanley

With genetically modified organism labeling on the Oregon ballot this election, there’s been a lot of talk about this controversial subject in the news.  This is a great opportunity for those wanting to learn more about GMO’s and food.  The class will include information about the different types of labels, how to know if the food you eat contains GMO’s and the highest risk foods.

November 22, 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Artisan Cheese with Brandon Massey (Co-op Cheesemonger)

The holidays are a great time to indulge in artisan cheese platters with friends and family.  This class will include information on local and regional artisan cheeses, cooking and cheese pairing ideas, plus a cheese tasting with the maker of Crooked Cow Cheese from Naselle, Washington.

Who: Open to everyone in the community (you do not need to be a Co-op owner)

Cost: $0

To register: call 503-325-0027 or email

Fall Farm to Fork Cooking Class

358Fall is in the air and Chef Marco Davis is coming up with a menu using the freshest local ingredients around.  How to cook using fall foods from local farms is the focus of our fall farm to fork cooking class in Astoria.  We’ve been teaming up with Columbia Memorial Hospital to produce a series of these classes, and this is the third.

Foods are harvested just before the class and the menu is designed based on what’s freshest and in season.  Chef Marco’s preliminary plans for the evening include a grilled carrot and radish appetizer, soup, root vegetable layered lasagna dish, as well as homemade gingerbread and sweet corn ice cream for dessert.  Anyone who’s had Marco’s cooking at the Columbian Café knows how great his food tastes, and this is an opportunity to learn from him as he prepares dinner before your eyes.

“Cooking local and seasonal can be simple, easy and tasty.  With patience, anyone can cook a meal that fills the belly and warms the heart.  Food should be shared and preparing meals together is the best way to learn and grow as a family and community,” Davis said.

Local produce will be incorporated into the dinner as well as locally-caught fish.  The Co-op will use its relationships with local farmers and ability to source directly from Bornstein Seafoods in Astoria to provide local and organic ingredients.  The farmers will be in attendance at the dinner and will talk about their farms, growing food, and how to source it.  The four course meal will also include wine pairings from regional wineries.

The class takes place at CMH’s Columbia Center Coho Room on Wednesday October 1 at 6 p.m.  To sign up, stop by the Co-op.  Do it soon, as space is limited.  If you wish to have a more hands-on experience, Chef Marco encourages you to come early to help in the kitchen.  Just let a cashier know you’d like to do this when you sign up.  The cost is $50 for individuals or $85 for two people.  Proceeds will go toward North Coast Food Web’s Fruit Box Project, which aims to get more fresh food into local schools.