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Food Advocate: Carrie Ferrence of Stockbox Grocers #foodadvocates

Our mission at Foodtree is to connect people with where their food comes from. With this in mind we’re highlighting individuals and organizations we think do a fantastic job of contributing, promoting, building, and transforming the food system. We call them Food Advocates. Would you like to participate? Fill out our interview here and we’ll follow up!

Today we’re featuring Carrie Ferrence, Chief Planning and Development Officer of Stockbox Grocers.

Tell us about your project/business:
Stockbox Grocers is a miniature grocery that is tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container and placed into the parking lot of an existing business or organization. We innovate on the espresso stand model to get fresh produce and essential grocery staples into communities that do not currently have access to good food.

Has your relationship with food evolved over time? How?
Absolutely. My mother never made anything out of a box – everything was made from scratch and she was dedicated to preserving every last bit of a food through pickling or jarring. Despite this commitment to food, it took me years to really learn how to savor and celebrate food, not just for its ability to sustain, but for its capacity to build connections between people and with community. As a grocery owner, I get to celebrate the ability of food to build meaningful and emotional connections. Food can educate. Food can heal. And food can help communities to thrive.

What is your earliest memory about food?
We have so many food traditions in my family, that it is difficult to pinpoint the earliest memory. We always have chestnut filling at Christmas, chocolate peanut butter cake on birthdays, pickled tomatoes from the garden in summer, and pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. Perhaps one of my fondest memories is one of the more simple dishes: venison sausage and potatoes in broth, after buck season.

What’s most important to you when it comes to buying food – local, organic, fair trade, GMO-free, etc?
I try to find a balance. I try to buy locally when possible. And, I have a few staples that I will only buy organic, like milk, eggs, and coffee. But, for the rest of my grocery cart, I really buy a mix of mainstream and organic. This is partly to balance out my household’s finances and partly because I often put a bigger focus on quality products. I know what products/brands that I like and I stick with them.

What is the one thing you’d like to see change about the food system?
As a small grocery owner, I’d love to see us move away from our dependence on the big box stores. We don’t need to shop in a 40,000 square foot store all the time. We don’t need to have 17 options for mustard. And, we don’t need to purchase everything in bulk. I’d love to see more opportunities to buy food inside the community.

What is special about food where you live? What’s one thing you would change?
I live in the Northwest, which means that I have a lot of access to fresh and foraged foods. We have such incredible wines, produce, seafood, and mushrooms. But, the lack of a good growing season in the summer does make it difficult to grow a variety of produce (including tomatoes!) in our own backyard.

What are your favorite ingredients to use when preparing a meal?
Olive oil, salt, and pepper. I once traveled Europe by bicycle for 4.5 months and probably prepared 75% of my meals with these three ingredients. I never got tired of it. If you have good food and fresh produce, than these three ingredients can simply help the food shine.

On a side note, I am a big believer in cream and whole milk. You just can’t bake or cook successfully with low-fat milk.

What are your favorite foods?
I was a vegetarian for more than a decade, but started eating meat a few years ago. Since my return to meat, I cannot get enough of salami and prosciutto. I also eat a ton of polenta, quinoa, eggs, and kale (it’s the one food that grows like hot cakes in my yard). In addition, I recently started making my own pasta, which is addicting.

Other than food, what are you particularly excited about right now?
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to learn how to sew and quilt. I have always been a big crafter, but have tended toward knitting and yarn. This will be a big step for me and I’m really excited to take on the challenge. I will be learning how to sew with my business partner, Jacqueline!

Tell us about a food-related project that has inspired you:
We are excited to be supporting Seattle Tilth as they build Seattle’s first food hub.

Where can people find you both online and offline?
Facebook: Stockbox Grocers
Twitter: @StockboxGrocers

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