The Path to Prosperity is an annual contest for Southeast businesses, sponsored by the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund and the Nature Conservancy. This year’s winners both want us to live more tastefully. The Salty Pantry in Petersburg and The Sawmill Farm in Sitka will each receive $40,000 to build businesses that have economic, social, and environmental benefit.
The winners were announced at this year’s (02-09-16) Innovation Summit in Juneau.
Bobbi Daniels, who owns The Sawmill Farm, went on stage to accept her plaque from the presenter. “So I’m standing there in front of everybody, in front of this huge Innovation Summit,” she told KCAW. “And I said, ‘Thank you. I’ll try really hard not to get manure on it.’”
Daniels is the kind of person to leave you rolling with laughter, and with a fresh jug of goat’s milk on your porch. I’m in her car, which has a pink steering wheel and is packed with chicken feed. Since space is so limited in Sitka, Daniels has built the farm across seven different backyards – offered by kindly friends and neighbors.
All told, there are 75 rabbits, 50 quail, 25 ducks, seven geese, seven turkeys, and eight goats. She feeds them with cast-off produce from the grocery store. And the number of mouths to feed is only getting bigger.
“We’re going to be getting 400 chicks from a hatchery. Both are laying flock and our first round of broilers…our meat chickens,” Daniels explains.
There are also 12 pigs in Washington, that still need to brought over on the ferry. Along with her business partner, Joshua Meabon, the Sawmill Farm has spent the past two years rearing livestock and fowl in Sitka.
Their goal? Daniels said, “When Sawmill Farm labeled meat is on the grocery store shelves in Sitka, that’s huge for us. That’s a huge goal for us. And we think we’re going to get that done by May.”
Daniels was a finalist for the Path to Prosperity Contest in 2014 and 2015, but says that what likely put her business into the winner’s circle this year is her plan to consolidate the farm on one location – at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park, the site of Sitka’s former pulp mill.
The $40,000 prize cash prize is earmarked for business development only, so Daniels will use it for website development, branding, and legal accounting.
Daniels grew up on a family farm in Indiana and wants to bring her locally-grown food philosophy to Sitka. “You look at your plate and what you eat and how you eat differently when you are involved in making it happen. You can’t help it. And I think it’s a really good change,” Daniels said.
The other winner of the Path to Prosperity contest doesn’t have to worry about getting manure on her award, but hummus may be another matter. Mindy Anderson owns the Salty Pantry, a rustic-foods market and deli in Petersburg.
This is Anderson’s first time entering the Path to Prosperity contest and she said the most useful part was the requirement to re-write her business plan. “In fact the night it was due, I was still adding photos and putting on the finishing touches. Finally I hit the submit button. It was a great feeling. My heart was pumping. ‘Finally, I’m turning in this project after all of this time.’ I think it was a 56 page document,” Anderson said.
Anderson started the Salty Pantry in 2014, bringing gourmet salt blends to the local farmer’s market. She also offers artisanal bread and pickled vegetables. Fans say her oatmeal is to die for.
And now, Anderson wants to expand her business from a home-based, cottage industry…”to a small family-run market and deli with eat-in dining for approximately 20 customers. I’m going to strive to be a business Petersburg can be proud of and be a leader in food and food education,” Anderson said.
Anderson also wants to open up a commercial kitchen to expand into home cooked meals and retail products, like pastas, salads, flavored butters, and cassoulets. While she can’t use the Path to Prosperity money to buy a new mixer, but she can use it for branding or her personal development, like classes in butchery and bread making.
“As a business owner you tend to not spend money on those things. You think, ‘I have to buy the stove, the hood, or I can’t leave my business at this point,'” said Anderson. “But right now is the perfect time for me to take advantage of those things and be more educated and be a successful entrepreneur.”
And that is the whole idea of the Path to Prosperity contest. With this money, both Anderson and Daniels will have the means and the permission to make their booming businesses even better.