Friday, October 3, 2008

River Valley Market - The Valley's Own Locally Grown Food Coop

I first discovered the wonder that is the River Valley Market back in April when we were living in Hatfield. It's right on Rt. 5/North King Street, on the way into Northampton. I'd watched the construction trucks going in and out of the site for months and had seen the building going up, but it seemed to take forever to actually open. But when it did, boy was it worth the wait!

The first thing that impressed me about the River Valley Market is that, while it is a coop, anyone is welcome to shop there—and for the most part, the price you see listed on the shelf is the price you pay. (Other coops I've visited only sell to members or charge an extra fee to non-members.) Though it's not required, you can join the River Valley Market Coop by paying a $150 membership fee, which entitles you to weekly "member specials" - discounts on certain products marked throughout the store.

I was also amazed at the wide variety of local foods and wares they had. Vegetables from a local farm in Whately, milk from a nearby family farm in Greenfield and incredible orchids from Green River Orchids in Deerfield, to name a few. All of that, plus aisles of organic, natural and otherwise unique items you don't see every day, like dried ginger candies, gluten-free cake mixes, organic wines, all natural beauty products, etc. It reminded me a lot of Whole Foods, except with more local items—and cheaper.

While it's a little out of my way now, I've gone back several times and I love trying new things from the bulk aisles. They have a ton of items in bulk, so you can take just the amount you need. It's great when you want to try out that new high gluten whole wheat bread flour, but don't necessarily want a 5 pound bag of it. Other bulk items they have include chocolate covered cherries, pretzels, raisins & nuts; white, rye, wheat & rice flour; green & red lentils; a variety of trail mixes & dried fruits; and spices like cardamom, oregano, rosemary & vanilla beans. That's just a sample. They have too many things to list (and I can't remember it all!).

You can also make your own peanut butter, get fresh fish and meat from the butcher's counter, get any kind of cheese you could ever need from the expansive cheese case or have a snack at the cafe. All the while you'll be surrounded by happy, helpful people, looking to make your shopping experience a great one. So if you haven't been by yet, check it out soon. But don't blame me when you find yourself wanting to go back every week to see what's new!

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