It may be too cold for outdoor gardening, but that doesn’t stop local food producers.
In indoor farms, commercial kitchens and home workshops, small vendors from around Southeast are still producing enough greens, baked goods and seafood to keep pantries stocked all winter.
They’ll now have one more place to sell them. Online farmers market Salt and Soil Marketplace will stay open for its first winter. A new Mendenhall Valley pickup location and home delivery service are helping keep the direct-to-consumer market open when the mercury drops, said Communications Coordinator Lea Skaggs.
The market opened just last year, but closed for the winter. So many vendors have joined, especially lettuce and microgreen growers, the marketplace has stock to keep services going.
“We have tons and tons of greens, pretty much coming out of our ears,” Skaggs said.
It works like this: Market customers place orders online. Vendors deliver their goods to Salt and Soil, which sorts them and holds hours at three different locations for customers to pick up their orders. (They also deliver, Skaggs said, for a $5 fee).
Fish, tea, bake-at-home treats, kelp pickles, locally-roasted coffee and microgreens — the options don’t peter out in the cold months, Skaggs said.
Salt and Soil’s ability to keep offering greens is a cornerstone. Nunatak Foods is one of a handful of local green growers helping do so.
The business, which local woman Jackie Ebert started last year with her husband Pat Dryer, is one of the biggest purveyors of greens at Salt and Soil, Skaggs said.
On Thursday at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, Ebert dropped off some butter leaf lettuce and assorted greens. That will get sorted by volunteers and Jennifer Nu, Local Foods Director with Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, which runs Salt and Soil.
Holding her son Oliver, Ebert said she’s excited to keep doing business through the winter.
“I think it’s great for the community to still be able to purchase local products,” Ebert said.
Between Salt and Soil and Panhandle Produce, which is both a vendor and its own business, Ebert said it’s “really cool just to see the scene starting to take off.”
The marketplace’s overriding goal is to increase local food sustainability and boost the economy, Nu said.
Baker Eric Oravsky likes the mission, he said after stopping by the JACC to drop off some of his bake-at-home croissants. He worked as a baker around the world before starting dough manufacturer Alaska Bakehouse last fall.
He said he enjoys the sense of community the market instills. He does a lot of wholesale distributing, which accounts for most of his revenue, but selling through the marketplace means he gets to have more of a personal connection with his customers.
Encouraging a connection between food producers and consumers is important to him.
“There’s a lot of focus on having food here. We have a tremendous growing area, a tremendous bounty of food in the area,” Oravsky said.
Salt and Soil’s new location is at Hooked Seafoods, on Industrial Boulevard. Panhandle Produce in Lemon Creek and the JACC are the two other locations.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.