A 'Crisp' new option for the U-district

SEATTLE - Every Saturday in the heart of the U-district, the University Farmers Market offers Seattle's largest variety of seasonal produce. But residents have long felt the need for an additional source of locally grown produce in their corner of the city, one that's open seven days a week.

Crisp Harvest Market has filled their order, and the location couldn't be more convenient for both students and residents.

Jeremy Knapman moved to Washington state over five years ago after having managed small branches of Whole Foods Market stores in Vancouver, B.C. He and his wife, Britta, now co-own the University Way store, where they say that affordability and quality is what sets them apart in the U-district.

"We understand that with some of these folks, price is the priority," Knapman said, "and with prices rising and people having to watch what's in their wallet, it's important to understand where to have value when you need it."

The UW 's Seattle campus is located just blocks away, making students on a budget the majority of its customers.

"It's so nice because Trader Joe's and QFC are too far away to walk, but this is perfect. It's right on The Ave and it's healthy, " said University of Washington student Megan Farrar as she stopped in to check out the store for the first time.

Knapman says that Crisp's prices are competitive with big box retail stores like Whole Foods, but that buying from local farms helps to keep prices down because the produce sold in-store doesn't have to travel far. As a result, the store is bursting with farm-fresh local produce from Washington state farmers including Adolfo's Organics, Green Acre Farms and Daisy Girl Organics, just to name a few. They also offer local beer, wine and coffee as well as bulk foods, dairy products and baked goods.

The debut of the new market comes during the heat of the debate on Washington Initiative 522, set to appear on the general election ballot in November.

If passed into law by voters, the initiative would require genetically modified food products - also known as GMO's - to display a label when sold in stores.

While the NO on 522 group argues that GMO labels would burden local farmers and consumers by driving up production costs, Knapman and Crisp support the initiative because it represents what he calls "conscious consumerism."

"What's important is knowledge and getting that knowledge to the community and giving you the right to pick and choose what you're consuming in your body," he said. "Food safety is food safety, and we don't know what the long-term effects are of GMOs."

More than 60 countries outside the United States already require food suppliers to use GMO labels on genetically-modified foods, and a recent statewide poll found that a majority of voters will likely vote in favor of I-522. Voters in California who recently voted on a similar bill, however, turned it down.

And although Knapman is in favor of the bill, you won't find many genetically modified products in his store - nearly the entire stock of Crisp's produce is certified 100% organic.