Country Farmer's Market in Enumclaw opens under new owners

For years Wade and Judy Bennett have worked side-by-side with the best farmers in the region at farmers markets. Now, they are using those connections, along with their own produce and award-winning hard and sweet ciders and berry wines from their Enumclaw-based farm Rockridge Orchards and Cidery, to fill a recently-purchased roadside market with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rockridge Orchards and Cidery bought Country Farmer’s Market on state Route 169, just north of Enumclaw. The doors opened May 14 and future plans include a wine-tasting area and moving their cider press to the site.

The Bennetts, who farm just a couple of miles away, couldn’t pass up the highly-visible retail location.

“We’re a well-kept secret in Enumclaw,” Judy Bennett said. “We exist and are well-known in Seattle.”

Rockridge Orchards and Cidery is a big draw for its high-end, high-quality food, ciders, vinegars, jams and honey, at Seattle-area farmers markets.

Like it’s predecessor, the Rockridge market will carry the best in local produce.

“That’s what we’ve done since 1991,” Judy said. “Farmed in the Pacific Northwest.”

The Bennetts are catering to locavores, those folks who like to know their farmer and their food.

“If I can’t vouch for it. I’m not going to carry it,” Judy said, noting currently there isn’t as much local produce on the shelves, but she knows from where every clove of garlic and California orange has come. “In another month and a half it will be all local.”

In addition to the Rockridge specialties and produce, the store carries Bob’s Red Mill flours from Oregon, including gluten-free varieties, Penny’s Salsa from Auburn, Smith Brothers dairy products and Willamette Valley Fruit Company pies and cobblers.

The opening falls into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which encourages Americans to understand the link between fresh, locally-grown food and a healthy diet.

It’s a growing movement. In press information presented by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, more people, 181 million hits on Google, were interested in local food, compared to 82 million for Lady Gaga.

“Two years ago it was the 100-mile diet,” Bennett said, explaining the trend to eat foods that were grown, raised or produced within 100 miles of home. “It’s not as much a big thing now, but a lot of people still eat that way.”

And Bennett is ready to help them, doling out advice on how to grow it at home or handing out tips on how to store and prepare it if it’s bought at their place. She’s at the roadside stand between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and someone else is there Sundays. The phone number is 360-802-6800.

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