Beverage Artisan: Starvation Alley Farms
Starvation Alley Farms is a 2014 Local Hero Award nominee in the Beverage Artisan category. Read about the Local Hero Awards and the nominees. Voting is now closed. Winners will be announced at Summer’s First BBQ on June 12 – get your tickets today to feast with the Pacific Northwest’s finest!
In the tight-knit community of cranberry farmers, it can be difficult to shake things up. So when Jared Oakes and Jessika Tantisook took over Starvation Alley Farms in 2010 and wanted to transition their bogs to organic, skeptics abounded. Starvation Alley now produces a pure, organic, unsweetened cranberry juice that is taking the Pacific Northwest cranberry community by storm. The farms officially got their organic certification less than a year ago to become the first certified organic cranberry farm in Washington.
We spoke with Jessika about what makes Starvation Alley’s product and business model so special.
What sets your beverage methods apart from others in the industry?
Our juice is 100% cranberry. It’s an uncut, cold-pressed, unsweetened, unpasteurized, 100% organic product. We grow it and produce it so we control our whole supply chain on the value-added side. As far as we know, our product is the only one with all of those qualities that exists. You lose a lot of beneficial bacteria in the pasteurization process, so if you’re eating or drinking something for the health benefits, it’s great to have it in its rawest, purest form.
How has your business changed or evolved since the beginning?
Last April we started a second branch of our company as a social purpose corporation, which gives businesses the opportunity to make decisions based on other metrics besides just making a profit. Our social purpose is supporting farmers as they make environmentally and socially sustainable choices. So this new business is helping farmers to make the transition to organic without it being so difficult or stressful. This year, we have two other farmers in Washington transitioning to organic, and we’ll buy their fruit. It makes me excited to design a company and write into its mission more about what farmers need. We’re farmers as well, so we can think about what we needed or wanted when we started that would have helped us out.
What issues are you especially passionate about right now?
I get really excited about labeling. What if we just put every single chemical that we use on the labels? Even with organic, you don’t have to put everything on the label. I think it’d be a huge awareness piece. I don’t know if people would be totally scared then or what would happen. I like to think about that side of it as well – helping to educate consumers. Many are excited to learn, and we have first-hand knowledge, so I think about how we can translate our story in a way that people can understand it.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your industry, and how have you worked to overcome it?
By design, cranberry communities are very tight-knit. In general that’s a really valuable thing. They can share resources, knowledge, equipment, processing facilities, cleaning and sorting. It’s great, but at the same time, if you are a farmer and want to do something out of the box, it’s pretty difficult. Knowledge in the industry is probably coming from one or two key sources, so there are definitely keepers of conventional wisdom. I’d say the biggest challenge then is creating change. I don’t know how many times we were told that organic cranberry farming wasn’t possible. And there’s not a lot of research that exists. That’s the part that scares people I think. My hope and dream is to have a resource bank for farmers or home gardeners who want to learn how to grow cranberries organically. We’re trying to do a little bit of that.
What are you drinking this week?
I’m drinking sparkling wine with a splash of Cranberry for Concoctions and celebrating spring! Soon we’ll be drinking Sage and Sea Farm’s Cranberry Drinking Vinegar, which uses our berries. There are also a lot of lovely bars in Portland that have picked up our product. Here’s a recipe for one of my favorites:
“The Starving Artist” by Jesse Lundin at The Secret Society:
1.5 oz Bull Run Distillery Temperance Trader Bourbon
.5 oz Aviation Gin
.25 oz SAF cranberry for concoctions
.25 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Photos courtesy of Starvation Alley Farms.
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