Feeling grateful: Country Market fire could have been worse

A decision had been made not to open the popular Snohomish fruit stand to focus on other enterprises.

SNOHOMISH — Keith Stocker lost a storage building to fire late Tuesday night.

The flames also reached an exterior wall of the popular Country Market building at Stocker Farms.

The following day, his first instinct was gratitude, not a sense of loss.

He knew it could have been a lot worse.

“It touched it but it didn’t take it,” he said. “It has been a part of the fabric of the community. That building was saved by a phenomenal effort by the first responders.”

The fire was first reported by a 911 caller shortly before 10:15 p.m. Tuesday. Someone smelled smoke and went to investigate, said Ron Simmons, chief of Snohomish County Fire District 4.

“They were able to get a lot of water on it really quickly and that kept it from extending too much,” Simmons said.

The Snohomish County fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause.

Stocker Farms had announced earlier this week it was not opening the Country Market this summer, instead focusing on its Big Red Barn events center across Highway 9 as well as its Mountainview Blueberry Farm. The Country Market building also serves as the company’s business office.

“Closing the Country Market was a hard choice to make as it is the end of a family legacy,” Keith and Janet Stocker wrote in a post on the company website. “Keith started selling corn from the tailgate of his Grandpa’s pickup truck as a kid at the current Country Farm location.”

The couple is redirecting customers to area farmer markets for local berries and produce, saying, “perhaps we will see you as we will be shopping there, too.”

The Stocker family has been part of the Snohomish farm community for a century. Keith and Janet Stocker recently became grandparents for the first time, beginning a sixth generation of the farm family in the valley.

In the early 1980s, Keith Stocker’s parents built a small produce stand on the side of the road to sell their produce, including pumpkins. It kept expanding until it became the Country Market, which operated for 22 years of offering strawberries by June to pumpkins into November.

Keith Stocker remembers being involved in produce sales long before that. He can still see himself as an 8-year-old boy equipped with gunny sacks, hanging out at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the weekends and selling corn atop an old screen door propped up by two sawhorses. When a car would drive up, he’d grab the corn, deliver it to the customer’s car and put the dollar in an old cigar box.

Keith Stocker on Wednesday was still assessing the challenges left by the fire.

“It is going to disrupt us for sure, but it’s not going to stop us from what we do,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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