By: IZZA JATALA
Inside of the new Purple Porch Co-op market, a producer from Hebron Farms and a consumer from the community sat in the café enjoying opening day together last Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Michelle Hebron, co-owner of Hebron Farms in Vandalia, and Mara Trionfero, South bend resident, were chatting while enjoying the kitchen’s freshly made soups.
Hebron said her farm provides pork, beef, chicken, eggs, turkey, lamb and vegetables.
She and her husband have been early member-owners of the Purple Porch since its start in 2009.
“This has been our dream along with everybody else involved since the beginning,” Hebron said. “Whenever I talk about Purple Porch I cry, because it means so much for us to be able to bring our product to South Bend and meet the people that appreciate what my husband does from morning to night every day. It’s important to them and it’s just as important to our family.”
The store is located 123 N. Hill Street and offers a variety of local and organic items, from frozen meats to canned goods, bulk items, refrigerated dairy products and seasonal produce.
They also have a café section with breakfast and lunch items like a waffle bar, salad bar, fresh daily made soups and a variety of grab-and-go options.
“I think it’s pretty cool, I’m not even a member and I saw the Facebook post so I decided to check it out,” Trionfero said, finishing the last of her beef stew soup.
“I mean, I’m sitting at a table with the producer of the food I just ate,” she continued. “The meat in the stew came from their farm and here we are just sitting and chatting and sharing recipes. It’s more than going to a restaurant, it’s more than going to a grocery store, it’s more meaningful.”
Myles Robertson, weekend store manager and IUSB alum, said the co-op is all about connecting this community with the food that’s produced around here.
“We’re really going to focus on origin, where does this coffee come from? Where do these potatoes come from? Who’s growing them? We do farm tours as well. So you can visit the farm where you food comes from and see how it gets produced,” he said.
Robertson noted that on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings producers will have booths set up for meet-and-greets with the community.
Robertson said the community is a big part about what makes this market’s vision so successful. From starting as just an idea to growing to nearly 400 members over the past few years, Purple Porch has really grown and spread the message of eating locally.
Now, after community and membership funding campaigns and months of renovations, they have a permanent location in the heart of the city.
“It’s awesome. I think it’s something we’ve been desiring for a while now, a marketplace in downtown,” said Dena Woods, South Bend resident who shopped opening day.
Woods said she thinks it’s important to know where your food comes from.
“It’s also just nice getting to know these people who are producing these items in the community. When I walked in I recognized Myles working at the counter and I recognized Sarah from Unity Gardens, and Shawn from Zen Café. I’ve run into a bunch of people I know so that’s kind of the nice thing about it too, you can really sense a strong community here,” she said.