Mukai fruit barreling plant to transform into community food hub

A food hub inside the restored fruit barreling plant unites long-time goals and serves the island.

Imagine a local food hub in the restored Mukai fruit barreling plant — returning the historic 98-year-old Mukai agricultural building to its original use for food processing and preservation.

What’s a food hub? It’s a shared use food and beverage processing facility that would offer food businesses and agricultural growers access to commercial processing space, equipment, and resources, which in turn would support business development and growth and added local food preservation for community members.

For more than 15 years, the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) has dreamed of creating a Vashon food hub.

Why Mukai? The barreling plant was built in 1926 by the Mukai family to house their agricultural berry processing business. Friends of Mukai, a nonprofit that operates the Mukai Farm and Garden, has planned for years to restore the barreling plant for public usage. Siting the Vashon Food Hub inside the plant returns the building to its original historic use: food preservation.

A food hub inside the restored fruit barreling plant unites the long-time goals of both Friends of Mukai and VIGA, and serves the island community too.

In a meeting March 11 at Mukai, Friends of Mukai presented to a crowd of 60 on the restoration project. Speakers included architect Rachael Kitagawa, who presented the space design.

Five tenant spaces are available under the in-progress building design, with partial height walls between spaces to allow for appreciation of the building’s historic features. VIGA will occupy one space, operating the Food Hub. Two local food business tenants — a bakery and a koji fermented food producer — will also occupy the building. Two more spaces are still available.

VIGA presenters Terah Bruce and Catherine Johnson shared potential features of the Food Hub, including:

  • A commercial kitchen with space for food processing, preparation, and storage with multiple workstations, commercial ranges, convection ovens, processing equipment, freeze dryers, dry and cold storage; and inside event spaces for food workshops, meetings, winter markets and farm-to-table dinners.
  • An agricultural tool library that will provide VIGA members with centralized access to shared farming equipment.
  • Local grain processing infrastructure with a grain mill available for community use, as well as support for increasing local grain production.
  • Cold storage for over-wintered crops, freezer storage for bulk produce and meat, and dry storage for bulk products such as animal feed, soil amendments and seeds.

The food hub would provide resources and infrastructure to VIGA’s members — 35 farms and more than 300 home food growers — allowing for increased sales capacity, year-round locally grown food for the community, and broader community access to a commercial kitchen for various uses to the public.

Both VIGA and Friends of Mukai expressed enthusiasm for the community’s support and the possibilities the Food Hub could bring to the island.

Looking ahead, two additional tenant spaces are still available within the restored barreling plant. Interested potential tenants, ideally but not necessarily food-based businesses, can contact Mukai at

Those with ideas for the Food Hub or interest in helping the VIGA planning team can email The barreling plant will be open for tours during the farm’s monthly Sunday open houses. For more information, check the calendar at

Watch for more information on the project in the next few months.

Lynn Greiner is a board member of Friends of Mukai. Terah Bruce and Catherine Johnson are members of VIGA.