Online market yields more sales for farmers
November 30, 2017
The Salt & Soil Marketplace, a virtual farmer’s market serving Haines and Juneau, has seen a moderate increase in both vendor participation and customer sales over the course of 21 weeks of sales, which began in late June in Haines.
Salt & Soil is an online platform in which food producers—from farmers and fishermen to value-added processors—and crafters list their wares on a weekly basis. Customers register with the site then shop for goods from any local vendor who drops off the items for local distribution coordinated by the Takshanuk Watershed Council.
Colin Peacock, the Local Foods Coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition which administers Salt & Soil, said though Haines’ growth during the season was “much slower” than Juneau’s, “overall everything went better than we expected in pretty much every way” during the program’s inaugural year.
Peacock said he initially worried there might not be enough vendor or customer interest, but as the Marketplace developed he saw “a huge outpouring of vendors, of people we didn’t know were interested in selling local food or crafts.” He added that although growth in Haines was slower than in Juneau, “for the people that use the Haines market it was successful.”
Counted among those successes are two produce vendors, Double Shovel Farm and Saunderosa Farms, the most active local vendors on the marketplace this year. Peacock said candle-maker Zero Waste Candles and Klawock-based seafood processor Wildfish Cannery also saw some success with sales in Haines through the Marketplace. Ten Haines vendors are currently listed on the Marketplace, though not all are active sellers.
Long-time gardener Kate Saunders listed produce through the Marketplace as Saunderosa Farms. She said there was an initial learning curve with using the online platform, but “once I knew the website it was very easy to list things.”
She likes Salt & Soil because it provides an easy avenue for smaller growers like her to sell excess produce. “The hardest part was predicting what we’d have,” she said. “I’ve never really had to do that before being a home gardener.” What Saunders did list often sold out.
“I think there’s a big market. If people have extra produce, it most likely will be sold.”
Peacock agreed, saying that the demand for both a larger variety and quantity of locally grown food exceeds the current supply, based on customer feedback from the season.
“There’s not a lot we can do about (that) except to talk to our vendors and let them know the demand is there,” Peacock said, adding that he’ll be doing vendor outreach this winter and encouraging farmers to grow more next season.
This season more than 600 orders were fulfilled via the marketplace netting local vendors over $18,000, of which Haines vendors earned about 2.5 percent.
Takshanuk Watershed Council Executive Director Meredith Pochardt was the local coordinator for Salt & Soil. In Pochardt’s absence, Jolanta Ryan, Takshanuk’s Education and Outreach Director, is organizing the final sale for the season, a special Holiday Market. The final sale closed Nov. 30. Vendors can drop items off at the Takshanuk office before noon on Dec. 4, and customer orders will be available for pick-up later that day.