There is a way to get seemingly anything online these days. That includes locally sourced, fresh produce and other foodstuffs. And it’s not just a big city thing, either.
The Kenai Peninsula Food Hub is up and running for its second year. It’s the first online marketplace of its kind in the state and it makes it a little easier for people to buy locally. That's a trend that Steve Dahl says keeps accelerating. He’s the site manager for the Food Hub and helps coordinate deliveries and pickups.
“In general, people want good food. And if they’ve got to pay a premium price, the less distance it has to travel, the better. Which would you prefer? A bag of spuds that came from Maine or five miles off? That concept in general is growing."
Along with his partner, Lou Heite, Steve also runs Eagle Glade Farms, in Nikiski. Lou says the Food Hub has been a great tool for them, as producers. While a traditional Saturday market offers face-to-face interaction and other benefits, it also takes a lot of time.
“But since it’s just Steve and me, I can’t always afford the (time). The farmer’s market may be open for six hours but there’s four hours of picking and processing and four hours of setting up, so it’s a full day that I’m not tending to things that need to be tended on the farm."
And so for both the farmers and the folks who like to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of their labor, moving things online can make things easier.
“The way I usually explain it is that it’s an online farmer’s market where you can go online during the ordering period and order your lettuce from Larry and your melons from Mary and your cucumbers from Carrie and pay for it all at once. It’s very simple, it’s very convenient for people who can’t make it to a farmer’s market.”
This is a peninsulawide thing, with suppliers from Homer and Seldovia getting into the mix, too. Dahl says that offers more people more variety.
“And for a place like Homer, it’s exceptionally nice, because Homer is basically a food desert. You go to one or two places to go grocery shopping, end of story. If it weren’t for the Homer Farmers Market and the food hub, Seldovia would be completely left out because you’d have to get on the ferry, go across, go to the farmer’s market, go to the grocery store, be disappointed, come back to the ferry and go back home. For Seldovia, they place the orders and a couple coolers are put on the ferry and everybody’s happy. Up here, it’s convenience. It’s a lot of convenience for a lot of people.”
With the growing season just getting underway, the selection at the food hub will get bigger and more diverse as the summer goes on. But lettuce, greens and herbs are available now, as well as oysters from Jakalof Bay. It’s quick and free to sign up for an account and put in weekly orders at www.kenaifoodhub.org. Pickups are scheduled for each Wednesday in Soldotna at Christ Lutheran Church from 3:30 to 6:30.