Duras Ruggles purchased a vehicle last month with few intentions of ever driving the thing.
Ruggles, 25, is the new owner of The Farm, an indoor farming business started last year by Bridget and Jake LaPenter out of their house and garden in the Flats neighborhood.
Ruggles farmed for about five years before moving to Juneau last summer and heard about the business opportunity through an acquaintance at the Salt & Soil Marketplace. In addition to the truck, the purchase of The Farm also came with an abundance of soil, seeds, trays, racks and growing lights. The LaPenters had plans to move part of their operation into the truck but didn’t get around to it before the sale.
“I feel really passionate about growing food,” Ruggles said in an interview with the Empire outside her farm near Tee Harbor. “I think it’s the most empowering thing we can do as people, especially in a politically-dangerous space, to have our independence and our freedom.”
Ruggles declined to say exactly how much the business cost, but called it a “significant investment.” She said an angel investor played a big part in the transaction. An angel investor is someone who invests in a start-up in exchange for debt or ownership stakes in the business.
“It’s definitely pertinent information that there was this nice lady who believes in local food and was able to lend me her money so that I could buy this business,” Ruggles said.
Currently there’s over a dozen trays of cilantro, radishes, peas and other microgreens growing. Ruggles said she hopes to cultivate herbs that other local farms, like Juneau Greens, don’t sell.
“My goal is to fill in the gaps and grow whatever people need,” Ruggles said. “I really love growing mushrooms, so that’s also going to happen.”
The Farm currently supplies microgreens for the Salt & Soil Marketplace. Ruggles hopes to sell her food to other places in the future — particularly schools and hospitals — as she starts growing a wider diversity of plants.
“I would really love it if I could sell food to mostly schools as well as hospitals and elderly homes and other facilities where healthy food is really necessary,” she said.
The LaPenters started the business last year in an effort to address Juneau’s food insecurity. They grew microgreens like lettuce year-round inside their house while also cultivating greens and crops outside in the spring, summer and fall. They stopped their indoor growing operation in March, Bridget said, to prepare for the birth of their second child the next month.
“We quickly realized it was just getting way too chaotic for us, so we knew some time off would be a responsible choice on our part to keep the stress levels low,” Bridget said.
Bridget said she’s excited to see where Ruggles takes The Farm.
“We’re really hoping she succeeds,” Bridget said.
Connecting with The Farm