Q&A With Jeff Babbit of Alaskan Homegrown’s Veggie Bus
It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.
Owner Jeff Babbit runs Alaskan Homegrown; a 30 acre, off-grid farm located in Kasilof with less than 10 staff members. He started in 2006 and has grown to include 26 greenhouses which provide much of the vegetables for sale in the Veggie Bus, which is the first mobile farmer’s market in Alaska. The Veggie Bus travels around the Kenai Peninsula selling produce from his farm, as well as organic pork and eggs from a neighbor’s farm, and other homemade products from local artisans and producers.
We recently sat down with Jeff to learn more about the journey he has taken as a small business owner in Seward.
How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?
I live in Kasilof, but the Veggie Bus has been coming to Seward for some time. We are happy to announce a regular schedule this summer. The Veggie Bus will be in the parking lot near The Cup coffee shop on the Seward Highway year-round every Friday from 11 am until 6 pm and Saturday from 11am until 3 pm.
What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?
Well, growing veggies in Alaska is pretty unique! As the summer progresses, you’ll find more and more vegetables and fruits available from Kasilof. In the meantime, we’re supplementing what we do have with eggs and meat from Lisa Rae’s farm in Kasilof, along with year-round produce like potatoes, turnips, potatoes and more.
Tell us about a product that you’re particularly proud of.
Our lettuce is the best product. We can grow and have available 100 pounds of lettuce a day all the way until late September!
What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?
Ten years ago, a friend and I started the first farmer’s market in Soldotna with just two vendors. It took a lot of work, but now it’s grown to over 60 businesses participating with live music and entertainment. I’m hoping I can recreate that in Seward and am looking for vendors and farmers to join in!
Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.
Buying the Veggie Bus was a huge risk. At the time, it was a lot of money, but now I have a mobile market and can reach a lot more people in communities all over the peninsula.
What do you like most about working in Seward?
Seward is such a great small town and the community has been incredibly warm, friendly and supportive. I appreciate people going out of their way to support local produce.
What is the best compliment your business has ever received?
Customers tell me a trip to the Veggie Bus is “fresh and friendly”!
Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.
I’m not very good at the technology side of things, so I really appreciate all of the locals who have created Facebook posts on Seward Events or Seward Services to get the word out when the Veggie Bus is in town.
How do you spend your free time?
HaHA! Farmers don’t have free time; something always needs to be done!
Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?
Tony’s Bar has friendly bartenders and is great for an after work drink. The Zimmerman’s at The Highliner have been so helpful and kind to me and their food is delicious. The Highliner and The Cookery are serving up products from the Veggie Bus too!
Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?
There is a lot of interest in starting a farmers market in Seward. I’m still looking for vendors, and hope to get enough contacts to make this happen next summer. Get in touch with me if you or someone else is interested in creating a locally sourced food and artisan market in Seward!
Feature Image: Welcome to Alaska’s first mobile farmers market! Photo Courtesy of The Veggie Bus.
For more information about The Veggie Bus click here.