Nicolle (Niki) Timm-Branch is the Founder and President of Central Oregon Locavore, a nonprofit whose mission is to support local food and local farmers and improve access to fresh, in-season, nutrient-dense local food to all members of the community. They do this through a physical co-op marketplace here in Bend along with numerous educational and outreach programs that target youth, low-income families, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

In addition to founding Central Oregon Locavore, Nicolle is a lactation nurse at St. Charles Medical Center, where she works with her mom.

Q: Hi Nicolle! We are honored to be chatting with the mastermind behind Central Oregon Locavore!  Could you tell us about the Marketplace and the bounty of items our community can find there?

NTB: Locavore is a year-round indoor farmer’s market open 10am-7pm everyday (summer hours) that carries dozens of farmers and ranchers’ products. We are centrally located, with lots of parking, and air conditioning, so it is a bit of an easier option for some than the outdoor farmer’s markets. We accept SNAP (food stamps), Oregon Farm Direct Vouchers, and Double Up Food Bucks.

In addition to tons of local organic produce and grass-fed meats, we have free-range eggs, local honey, organic beans and grains from the valley, and hundreds of locally made products. We have the largest selection of local grass-fed meats in one place anywhere in Oregon, and most likely the entire west coast. We do carry some value-added food brands (like ketchup, soups, salad dressings) that you will see in other natural food stores, but we research each company and the ingredients before choosing to carry them at our market. We have a strict sourcing policy you can see on our website.

Q: The summer farmer’s market season just opened up in Central Oregon, but the unique thing about the Locavore Marketplace is that it’s open year round. Tell us about this approach and why it’s important.  

NTB: The beauty of the year-round indoor marketplace is that farmers and ranchers can deliver their products at a time that is convenient for them, and then quickly return to their farms and ranches versus being tied to the booth schedule at the farmer’s markets and spending hours selling their items. While this is often one of the most enjoyable parts of being a farmer for many, sometimes it can be very overwhelming to do oneself, and expensive to pay staff.

At Locavore we offer an alternative to the time-strapped producer. This is our main mission, to support and elevate local farmers and ranchers so that they can continue to provide us with a nutritionally superior, fresh, stable source of nourishment. There is not enough food grown in Central Oregon to feed our population. We need to support our local producers so they can continue to expand and get us closer to being able to support our community.

Niki (center) was born and raised in Bend and credits her Mom and Granny for instilling in her a passion for local food from a young age.

Q: You have a wealth of knowledge about the local food scene. Is there anything you wish more people knew about buying and supporting local?  

NTB: One of the biggest myths is that local food is super expensive and that only people with disposable income can afford to purchase it. At Locavore we have a unique model in that we buy high from the farmers, and sell low to the consumer, offering an additional 5% off anyone who is eligible for food stamps. We are the only brick and mortar market in Central Oregon Locavore to take Double Up Food Bucks, where anyone who has SNAP can receive $20 of free veggies for every $20 spent PER DAY! That adds up.

When you buy local, you are buying in season, which often means lower prices, and because everything is freshly harvested, you have longer to eat it before it goes bad (not to mention the taste is soooo much better).

When people say local food is more expensive, they are often comparing commercially grown and imported prices with locally grown prices. There is so much to unpack there. Prices are kept artificially low by government subsidies, exploitation of marginalized populations as farm labor, the use of chemicals and pesticides vs natural methods, animal abuse in the form of confinement animal feedlot operations, abuse of the land, and soil depletion. These are things that if they do not have a direct impact on the consumer right now, they will have an exponentially steep price in the not so near future. Choosing local means choosing soil regeneration, environmentally friendly practices, humane treatment of animals, fair wages for workers, transparency of farming practices, and food security.

Niki speaks at the Annual Locavore Gala & Fundraiser at Tetherow

Q: What are one or two of your favorite summer recipes to make?

NTB: Grass-fed, grass finished hamburgers on the grill of course! And for those who don’t eat meat…

Cucumber, Tomato, Mint Salad – Cucumbers, tomatoes, chopped mint, onion powder, dash of apple cider vinegar, juice of 1-2 lemons, pinch of stevia, salt and stir! Because of the dash of vinegar, it gets better over time and the cucumbers take on a tangy pickle flavor. You can get all these things at Locavore!

Berries and Cream – we have the BEST berries at Locavore, they come direct from small farms in the valley, who are either certified organic or use organic practices. Gather a bowl of berries – let them come to room temperature for richer flavor, with some cream (we have both half and half and full cream from Gary’s Meadow Fresh in the valley as well as raw cream available via the Windy Acres herdshare). A dash of vanilla and/or stevia makes it even better. If you don’t like cream, we have the best price on Bonta Gelato in town and always will. Locavore was their VERY FIRST seller of their gelato when they first started, over 10 years ago.

Q: You are a long-time patient at Inspired Health.  What are some of your biggest learnings working with Dr. Weintrob?

I strive to follow the 8 Pillars of Inspired Health. The pillar I struggle most with is stress management. I have so much to do! Being a nurse at the hospital, running a construction company with my husband (Branch Brothers Construction) and running Locavore is a lot. I know I need to find balance with these things, and the 8 Pillars are always a great place to start. This summer I am specifically focusing on movement and sunshine!

Q:  Which products from the Inspired Health Apothecary have been game changers for you? 

I love Max Relax for when I get home to help chill me out for the evening, the Adapt +  for energy and the Biotone before bed for hot flashes (If I have even one glass of wine I get hot flashes. Lame).

Q. Are there any books that have inspired you lately?

NTB: I am currently reading Obama’s Dreams from my Father and it is fascinating. But my very favorite book of all time is the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, it is my bible.

Q. And as usual, let’s share some Central Oregon love!  Can you share a couple of your favorite local businesses?

NTB: Jackson’s Corner,  Luckey’s Woodsman, Rockin’ Dave’s, Barrio, El Sancho, Spork, and 900 Wall are all restaurants that I know purchase and support local farmers. There are so many more and I am excited the movement is growing. I also love thrift store shopping, I strive to buy nothing new (except undies and socks), the world has too much stuff already!

Thank you Nicolle for all you do in our community!

To learn more about Central Oregon Locavore’s memberships, events and more, visit their Website. You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook. The Marketplace is located at 1841 NE 3rd St. in Bend.

***Locavore is also seeking donations for a new POS (Point of Sale) system! Donate HERE to help them keep the Marketplace running smoothly!