PORT TOWNSEND — The look of surprise on people’s faces: That’s one bonus for Jo Yount.
Week after week this spring and summer, she’s cultivating organic vegetables, herbs and flowers, all for her neighbors who come to the Port Townsend Food Bank. The Quimper Grange garden, 1219 Corona St., is her domain, the place she goes early in the morning to harvest produce — and bundle bouquets of blooms for each client’s package of food.
Last year the garden program — officially the Jefferson County Food Bank Farm & Gardens — donated 6.25 tons of fresh produce to the food banks in Brinnon, Quilcene, Chimacum and Port Townsend. As with food pantries across the country, trucks and cars transported much of it.
In Port Townsend, there’s a change in that routine.
The Peddler, aka Juri Jennings of Port Townsend, loads up her bicycle’s long, insulated trailer at the Quimper Grange and pedals the produce to the food bank just before it opens on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
These trips are only two of the many Jennings makes every week of the year. She delivers groceries and farmshares to her paying subscribers all over town; that’s a main revenue source for her business. And this summer just got a lot busier, with local farms and community gardens sending donated produce to the food bank via the Peddler.
A grant from the Port Townsend Food Co-op’s GROW Fund, plus community donations, make the Peddler’s food bank trips possible.
At the same time, the bicycle pickup service makes it easier for gardeners to send their surpluses off to the food bank, as those growers — Dundee Hill and Shooting Star community gardens, Shy Acre and Collingwood farms — don’t have to drive to the food bank themselves.
“It has made a huge difference that Juri was able to come up on her bike,” to the food bank door, said Kathy Ryan, Food Bank Farm & Gardens president.
If not for the Peddler, “we would have had to schlep the food across the street,” from volunteers’ cars.
Jennings, for her part, said she has a little more room in her weekly schedule for a few individual or community gardens in Port Townsend, especially if they’re not too far off her rounds.
At less than 110 pounds, Jennings admits she feels like an ant traveling the city’s streets, and she’s glad her Surly Big Easy bike has electricity to help her ascend hills with the trailer full of food. This week her odometer, tracking her trips since January, hit 1,636 miles.
As for the late June heat wave, it “was pretty OK for me,” Jennings said.
“I come from a megalopolis: a hot, humid city of Osaka, [Japan], so my body remembered what to do. Plus, my subscribers were all super sweet. One left a coconut water out for me to grab; another gave me a cold glass of water, and even offered to cool off in her house.”
To help with the expanding work load, “I hired my husband,” Jennings added.
She has Roarke, who also works at the Food Co-op and co-parents their 2-year-old son, doing Peddler deliveries on Thursdays.
Still, Jennings is looking for other needs in the community. Are there people who can’t get to the food bank, and who could benefit from bike-delivered produce?
One of her goals is to get rid of the barriers between people and produce grown nearby, she said.
“Juri is incredible,” Ryan said.
The Peddler-gardener-food bank partnership has been more successful than she anticipated.
“People say they’ve never seen a food bank like this,” she added of the Port Townsend pantry.
The flower and herb bundles seem to have an impact on food bank clients, Ryan said.
She believes they send a message of caring, from gardener to neighbor. Fresh herbs for seasoning and blossoms for the table have as much to do with health as do the crisp lettuces and sun-gold tomatoes.
“The flowers,” Ryan added, “are grown with love.”
Food bank information
The Port Townsend Food Bank, 1925 Blaine St., opens twice weekly:
• Families, couples and singles can pick up fresh food from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.
• Seniors 65 and older are encouraged to visit the food bank between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays.
For information, phone 360-531-0275 or email manager Shirley Moss at [email protected]
For more about local food banks, including those in Brinnon, Quilcene and Port Hadlock, see jeffersoncountyfoodbanks.org. For the Tri-Area Food Bank at 760 Chimacum Road, phone 360-379-9462; for the Brinnon pantry at 151 Corey St., phone 360-701-0483 and for the Quilcene food bank at 294952 U.S. Highway 101, phone 360-765-0904.
Home gardeners and community garden coordinators in Port Townsend can find information about the Peddler, a bicycle delivery service for growers with surplus produce they want to donate to the food bank, at PeddlerPT.com. Owner Juri Jennings can be reached at [email protected] or 360-316-6943.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]