Visiting Warner Public Market in Warner, is like going back in time. Locally grown food, locally made crafts and goods, and neighbors with friendly smiles greet you inside. Nestled in the heart of downtown Warner, the market has quickly become an important part of the idyllic town, which is easily found right off exit 9 on Highway 89. I asked Bret Ingold, one of the six founders of the market what makes Warner Public Market unique and he convinced me that their local model is our future. If the future tastes as good as the food I brought home with me yesterday, then I am sold!
Please read the following Five Questions with Bret Ingold and visit the Market. They do online orders and sidewalk delivery. And, of course, everything is packed in reusable and compostable bags.
How did you come up with the idea for the Warner Public Market?
The idea for Warner Public Market came to life over a series of potluck dinners amongst friends. Our conversations explored the connections between our food chain, climate change, the environment, consumer activism, soil, localization, local farms, health, democratic governance, resilience and community. We saw the need for Warner Public Market and it felt like time to put our energies and money behind our beliefs. It was time to take local food to the next level in Warner with a brick and mortar seven-days-a-week main street marketplace right off the highway. Our goal is to serve and help support both the small family farms in our region and the growing number of shoppers sharing the realizations that our consumer choices can either contribute to the environmental and social ills we see or be part of building a hopeful future worth passing on.
What makes Warner Public Market unique?
There are many things that make WPM unique both in the shopping experience and behind the scenes in how the market is operated. For the shopper it may be more like the experience our grandparents were accustomed to with lots of seasonal offerings, bulk goods with less packaging, whole foods, a storekeeper that knows the stories and faces behind the products, and the names of the farms where individual items come from. Also different is the mix of inventory, in addition to the local farm food and impressive NH microbrew selection there is a uniquely curated collection of art and craft from small makers, environmentally responsible household goods, and an extensive natural apothecary. For those that help operate the multi-stake holder cooperative it is an exercise in cooperative business, democratic control and community participation. A grassroots collaboration of consumers, farmers and worker-owners not often found in the grocery aisle.
What could I find at Warner Public Market right now?
Oh boy, this time of year the bounty is too big to name!, but here is an item from each department: NH sweet Corn Peaches from Gould Hill Bulk, ginger coated cashews, Polyculture brewery “boat shoes”, Elderberry syrup, Short Creek Farm green Garlic Sausage, Triple cream bloomy rind cheese from Gilded Fern, ferments from Brookford, Micro Mamas, Short Creek and more, Yalla’s Hummus and pita bread, Bulk green cleaning supplies, Kearsarge Gore Farm maple syrup and so much more!
How has your experience been with COVID-19? What challenges have you overcome?
Covid threw us all for a loop, however it did not come as a surprise. Many of us in the local farming community have been aware of the potential instability lying right around the corner in our current systems and popular norms. Our dependencies on external inputs, matched with the continual expansion of extractive economies and assumed dominance over natural systems have made our society vulnerable to such disruptors, in this case a crossover novel virus. For us the virus was a call to action to keep our community safe, keep our members safe, keep our workers safe, and help feed those in need by partnering with the local pantry. To do all of that in a way that boosts local NH agriculture.
The biggest challenge was how fast we had to reimagine and reinvent the way we conduct retail. Our team did an incredible job and back in early March we became the first grocery store in the state to have 100% online marketplace, with curb service and contactless shopping experience at the door to ensure everyone’s safety. We’ve been practicing physical distancing and social strengthening ever since.
What is your advice to others hoping to start a local market in a small New Hampshire town?
Please do and Go for it! It isn’t easy, but little worthwhile is. We’d be happy to share our experience with anyone thinking about it! Come and see us at Warner Public Market!
All photos used with permission from Warner Public Market’s Facebook Page.