For two years, the Local Sprouts Cooperative has been creating a name for itself as a sustainable and healthy catering and meal cooperative in Portland. Hanifa Washington, a worker-owner and chef, likens it to "Superman in slo-mo," saying that the organization has experienced a "steady advance" since its inception in 2007. In addition to catering events for approximately 50 like-minded groups, Local Sprouts has attracted about 60 co-op members who benefit from the group's community-supported kitchen, paying a fee in return for a certain amount of freshly prepared foods every week.
Now, the eight worker-owners are about to take a giant leap, as they attempt to launch a Community Supported Café in town, possibly in the former Portland Hall. (The owners are currently in negotiations with Bayside Maine LLC, the development company co-owned by activist and state senator Justin Alfond, which bought the building at 645 Congress Street and plans to build apartments above the ground-floor retail space the Sprouts hope to occupy.)
To celebrate their achievements so far, Local Sprouts will host Taking Root, a fundraising event at SPACE Gallery on August 8. They'll serve a giant meal (roasted-veggie and greens salad, fresh bread, haddock or marinated tempeh with caramelized onions and more seasonal vegetables, plus chocolate beet cake and blueberry cheesecake bars), bands will play (including Over a Cardboard Sea, The Orchards, Lady Zen, and the Excuse Me Circus), and representatives will be on hand to talk about what Local Sprouts founder Jonah Fertig calls a "very unconventional" café idea.
In addition to carrying over the Local Sprouts community-supported kitchen model, the café will be financed (Fertig hopes) through community-based loans and investments. Members will be able to pick up meals, but the café will also be open for the public to order off a menu; Washington and Fertig describe a space that's available for educational programs and possibly even winter farmers' markets and co-op retail. Could this be the community space that Portland's social-activists have been clamoring for? Stay tuned.
TAKING ROOT | August 8 @ 6:30 pm for dinner, 8 pm for show | $15 dinner + show; $10 dinner only; $8 show only | at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland | 207.615.9970 | localsproutscooperative.com