Sprout! is one of NEDCO’s many success stories. Sprout! is a community food hub project that brings together a commissary kitchen for rent, a year-round indoor/outdoor farmers market, and business services all under one roof. What intrigues me about that roof is that it happens to belong to the former First Christian Church in downtown Springfield.
NEDCO hired Arbor South Architecture to imagine the repurposing of First Christian Church. Firm principals Bill Randall and Dan Hill responded by situating the indoor component of the farmer’s market in the lofty church sanctuary, and placing Sprout!’s new community kitchen in the former fellowship hall. Arbor South took full advantage of the opportunity presented to them by NEDCO. They bestowed Sprout! with a functional and commodious home, while preserving a familiar and memorable part of the urban fabric. The members of First Christian Church wanted their building to remain a community resource; the new Sprout! fulfills this wish.
I’m increasingly appreciative of the concept of reinventing our food systems through localization. Food hubs like Sprout! are valuable because they provide the social and physical infrastructure to connect local buyers and sellers. They offer facilities for farmers to store and process, market, and distribute local food. According to Sprout!’s website, a 1% increase in our local food production and consumption would keep millions of dollars circulating here in Lane County. Keeping it local strengthens our region, our farmers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs.
Sprout! is truly using food to grow community. Its 3,000 s.f. certified commercial kitchen is the solution for businesses in need of additional production capacity. Whether it is a food cart looking for prep space or a local farmer interested in creating value added items, the new kitchen has all the equipment necessary to assist getting their products ready for sale.
Sprout! also offers food business development services. Its menu of services includes business plan development, financial analysis, brand/marketing strategy, operations management, recipe development, and nutrition analysis. It is a business incubator focused on the needs of the food industry in Lane County, providing technical assistance, one-on-one help, group education workshops, affordable office space, and access to financial resources.
Unlike specialized and industrialized agribusinesses, local farmers wear many hats. From planting and raising animals to harvesting and marketing, the local farmer is often faced with more than a full time job. Food hubs like Sprout! support small-scale, family farming while helping to meet the increasing demand for local food.
The creation of Sprout!, which opened its doors last October, is truly a feel good story, a classic win-win situation: downtown Springfield retains an architectural landmark at risk of being lost, which becomes the home to a vibrant community food hub. Kudos to NEDCO and Arbor South Architecture for making it happen.
My wife and I visited the farmers market at Sprout! this past Friday. We not only thoroughly enjoyed strolling the aisles of produce stands but also the opportunity to find our dinner there and among the variety of locally owned food carts that park alongside Sprout! The market operates each and every Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 PM, year-round regardless of the weather. If you haven’t already done so, check it out.
(1) Ted Corbin is the current chair of NEDCO’s board of directors. Ted cajoled me to be a member of a design panel charged with evaluating applications for NEDCO’s grant and no-interest loan program associated with private improvements along downtown Springfield’s Main Street. It was from Ted that I learned about NEDCO and the fantastic work it does in the Eugene-Springfield community.
(2) Percy D. Bentley of Eugene was the architect for First Christian Church. He designed the church in a Norman Gothic style. W.H. Shields was the general contractor and completed the church in 1948 at a cost of $120,000.