Covelo's One-Stop Wellness Center
by Sara Stapleton
Back in 2012, a group of local women came together in Covelo to dream up a beautiful community concept that would eventually come to fruition as the Village Hearth Cooperative Marketplace. Five years and many passionately volunteered hours later, they opened their doors, eager to share the bounty with their community. The co-op was born out of these women’s hope to create a space that would promote and nurture a vibrant local economy, one that would nourish and sustain the community by providing a space for “creativity, prosperity, education, and wellness,“ and it is clear that they have succeeded from the moment that you walk in.
The Village Hearth sits on the corner of Covelo and Rife Road in “the little red house,“ built of redwood in the late 1800s—a sweet spot for many local residents who have fond memories of one or another of its previous incarnations. You can’t miss the beautiful old craftsman with the white picket fence and the big black walnut tree in the corner of the yard. Their sign out front will beckon you in with promise of local produce, delicious fruit smoothies, and artisan goods.
Step inside to a sunny space with a bright, palpable energy, and you will be met with locally crafted goods aplenty: artists' prints on cards, hats, and reusable canvas tote bags, jewelry, ceramics, hand-forged knives, handcrafted leather goods, and framed photography hanging upon the walls. Even if this is not exactly the reason you came, I can almost guarantee that it will be hard to leave without a little something that will support the more than 50 artisans who have their work displayed on consignment at the market.
The cooler is filled with organic local produce coming from farms such as Covelo Organics, Folklife Farm, and Summit Valley Organics—all located within Round Valley. The best of what is in season is what you’ll find here, so look for vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet summer melons in the coming months. There is also local meat on offer—beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and other staples such as pasture-raised eggs. Head in to the bulk room and discover beans and grains, granolas, oils, herbs, and spices. Within the coming months, almost all of the herbs at the cooperative will be sourced from founding board members' farms: Patricia at Sun Roots Farm and Monelle Riley of Gaia Spirit Farms. There are plans to offer the Mendocino Grain Project’s flour as the market continues to hone in on and expand its hyper-local initiative.
Before heading into the back for that delicious house-made scone and pour-over coffee or seasonal veggie frittata, don’t miss the incredible apothecary space. It is no secret that our county is filled with many passionate and talented herbalists, and you can find many of their hand- and heart-crafted products here. Tinctures, salves, teas, and self-care products abound, including items such as the Vitality Tonic from the Mendocino Herb Guild, a volunteer-run organization working to create full circle herbalism in our county. Since wellness is a large part of their mission, the co-op also offers a space for local practitioners to offer massage, midwife services, and Ayurvedic consultations in a private cottage out back.
On entering the cafe, you will find super fresh and healthy salads, hearty soups, and delicious sandwiches, alongside baked goods, teas, and fresh juices. As you might suspect, many of the ingredients are grown or crafted locally, and if you’re lucky, one of the daily specials might include a delicious preserve from founder Isabelle LeMeiux’s company, Goodlife Canning and Catering. Enjoy your meal outside at one of the picnic tables under the old trees or in the shade of the quaint side porch. The market recently brought on board a new chef, Kayla Rutherford, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Kayla will be offering espresso beverages, as well as rolling out a full kids menu. There is plenty more delicious excitement on the horizon.
The Hearth hosts their own farmers market on Tuesdays, furthering the accessibility of local produce, in addition to many fun, family-oriented events throughout the year, most of them celebrating cross quarter traditions such as the seasonal equinoxes. Easter brings true, plastic free egg hunts, and May Day is filled with flower crowns and a maypole for all to gather around. In the heat of summer, barbecues with water play for the kids are a common sight, and Halloween brings the Haunted Yurt, which takes place in the structure behind the market that is otherwise offered to local groups, such as the Eel River Recovery Project, as a meeting space or a place to offer classes and workshops.
The Village Hearth is a powerful force, and it is hard to leave without feeling inspired. Through the co-operative, area residents have access to organic, healthy foods and are, in turn, supporting the people who grew them. The Hearth promotes wellness through so many avenues, encouraging reverence for this beautiful, wild county that we call home and serving as a place for people to gather together. The Hearth has its own heart, is its own entity, and is something that these women hope will continue on for many generations to come. That is truly what community is all about.
76101 Covelo Road, Covelo
(707) 354-4437 | TheVillageHearthCoop.com
Open Mon–Sat 10am–6pm
Sara Stapleton lives high upon Greenwood Ridge and feels most at home in the tall trees, alongside meandering streams and birdsong. She is a passionate eater, seeking out local food wherever she goes. You can find her serving up farmer tales and deliciousness at the Bewildered Pig in Philo.