Thursdays are pickup and dropoff day for online farmers market Salt &Soil. They keep Colin Peacock busy. Into orange plastic containers, he sorts salad greens, colorful farm fresh eggs and loaves of bread, each bought online and picked up in person at the former Department of Public Safety building across from the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.
Peacock works out of a garage-like space on the narrow end of the building with intern Lea Skaggs. It’s in a new location for the business, which has extended its reach by several factors in its second year in operation.
“The number one thing people wanted from us last year was a downtown pickup and dropoff location. So we have that now, and it’s a lot bigger, it’s covered and heated,” Peacock said between receiving orders from local farmers.
A go-between for local small-market farmers, Salt &Soil connects foragers, farmers and fishermen to their customers, who make custom orders online. Suppliers have tripled this year. Sales for the May-October operation have increased similarly, Peacock said, and membership has grown to 800 customers, with about half of those already having purchased products in the first five weeks of operation.
“When we started in May last year, we had about 13 orders that week. We started this year, we had 40 orders,” Peacock said.
That increase in demand might come from Salt &Soil’s fast-growing roster of local producers. Jackie Ebert, a busy mother and Juneau Mountain Rescue Section Chief, stopped by to drop off kale, arrugula, oak lettuce and tatsoi (similar to a mustard green) she grew in an indoor farm. It’s a business she’s been able to start this year with her husband Pat Dryer. Nunatak Foods, as they’ve named it, operates out of local aeroponic and hydroponic farm Terramar Hydro in the Mendenhall Valley.
The indoor, vertical setup means Ebert and Dryer can grow and harvest lettuce year-round, “which is pretty rad,” Ebert said.
“I think it’s really cool … being able to provide something local, something super healthy and fresh. We don’t have many opportunities here, especially in the wintertime,” Ebert said.
They’re the fourth hydroponic produce purveyor to sign on with Salt &Soil, Peacock said. Ebert is passionate about food security, she said, and saw an opportunity to add to Juneau’s local eating movement while making a little money. They started about five months ago.
Microgreens also joined the menu this year. It’s a flavor-packed product new Salt &Soil vendor The Farm, a business run by husband and wife team Jake and Bridget LaPenter run out of their home in downtown Juneau’s Federal Flats neighborhood.
They sell on their own and through Salt &Soil. Like Ebert, they got into the produce business as a hobby with the upside of adding to Juneau’s food secturity.
“Ninety-five percent of the produce comes up on the barge and what would happen if the barge didn’t show up? … We thought, ‘Well, maybe we can apply ourselves somehow,’” Jake LaPenter said. “We thought growing microgreens might be a good answer to that problem.”
Unlike several Salt &Soil suppliers, Kylie Wray and her husband Eli Wray run Panhandle Produce as a full-time job. They were one of Salt &Soil’s only year-round produce suppliers last year.
They also sell produce out of a Lemon Creek storefront, which doubles as a pickup and dropoff location for Salt &Soil. But though they have their own storefront, there’s utility in also selling through Salt &Soil, Kylie Wray said while dropping off produce recently.
“It allows us to have another venue to market our product,” co-owner Kylie Wray said. “It also cuts down on our overhead, because everything that you’re selling has been bought and paid for.”
Seafood is an area of expansion this year, Peacock said. Last year, Salt &Soil sold only locally-harvested oysters. This year, they’ll add halibut and salmon as they come in seasonally, as well as fresh crab and shrimp.
Salt &Soil also operates in Haines. Once the Juneau and Haines branches grow roots, Peacock said they’re hoping to expand to other Southeast communities.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.