Shoppers at Country Organics’ new and capacious Marketplace on Bechelli Lane in Redding will experience no growing pains. Rather, the experience is more akin to the blessing that owners Bob and Mandy Edmondson have found in the move. Plenty of light brightens the space, and a large display of organic and local produce, with Mandy’s hand painted “Farmacy” sign hanging just above, takes center stage.
Some history elucidates this blessing.
In 2003, Country Organics began as a delivery service of organic produce. Then owners Jim and Rachel Brown took online orders from Redding residents and delivered the boxes to their homes and workplaces. The Edmondsons took over in 2006, and by 2009 the business had grown so much that produce deliveries to their own home became unmanageable. The Edmondsons then rented a small warehouse space near the intersection of Cypress and Churn Creek avenues. With no windows, just a retractable garage door, the warehouse space was nevertheless big enough that the Edmondsons brought in other organic products and added a retail outlet to their delivery service. The Marketplace débuted as a small but full service organic grocery, its emphasis on organic, local, and sustainable as a mirror of the Edmondson family’s own values and practices. Some delivery customers preferred picking up their weekly produce boxes there, where they could also shop for other products on offer. Still, the space constraints limited the products available, it was dark and garage-y in cold weather, and most produce and all the locally sourced meat were hidden out of sight in a walk-in cooler.
Not any more.
The last day of September, Country Organics Marketplace opened in its new space, the first store on the right as you enter the parking lot of the U-shaped shopping center known as Mission Square. The “Farmacy” sign above the produce suggests Hippocrates’ adage “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food”—an adage that Country Organics seems to take seriously.
Shopping at Country Organics Marketplace brings access to more than what’s on the grocery list. It’s also an education about small, committed t0 farmers and other producers in the north state. Local farmers Don McKinney, Lee Churulich, Margaret Jensen and Gerry Long, Tom and Cindy Lau, and John and Lana Kitchel are among those supplying produce. Meats are sourced from locals Turri Family Farms, Hat Creek Grown, and Scott River Ranch. Eggs come from pastured and/or free-range (really free-range, not just those meeting the USDA-definition) Lazy 69 Ranch in Round Mountain and sometimes from Kid Creek Pastures in Mount Shasta. Sold are also two local brands of handmade organic soap products, The Essential Olive (Happy Valley) and Clear Creek Soap (Shasta Lake). Honey comes from Mowat Apiaries in Weed. Baked goods come from Mandy Edmondson’s L’Chaim Bakery and PattyPam Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Baked Goods, both Redding enterprises licensed under the California Homemade Food Act—as well as from three local commercial bakeries. Organic grains come from Azure Farm in Oregon. (Google or Facebook these folks to begin the educational process—or visit the Marketplace!)
There’s another way the Edmondson’s enterprise is educational. The Edmondsons homeschool their six children, and the kids’ “real life learning” at the Marketplace and at home with L’Chaim Bakery is part of the curriculum. (Well, lessons for Mari Rose, the youngest at eighteen months old, are perhaps limited to exercising her new teeth as she nibbles the organic seeds and dried fruits purchased onsite.) Shop at the Marketplace on Mondays, and all eight Edmondsons are likely to be there. In the back of the store is a room furnished so that the older children can do schoolwork and the youngest nap; they proudly show off their father’s new office area on the route to this room. A recent visit found Will, thirteen, polishing the Marketplace’s windows and glass doors and then serving shoppers at the cash register. While the younger children Ella (nine), Lily (six), and even Grant (three and a half) like keeping the store neat and tidy, both versatile Will and well-spoken Rylie, the oldest at fourteen, enjoy interacting with shoppers. By all evidence, the feeling is mutual.