If you take a look, you’ll find the latest issue of Edible Alaska out now. For the spring issue, photographer Ash Adams went deep on the SJ Klein’s cool urban micro-farm. (His thai basil, at Natural Pantry right now, is perfect for this awesome salad recipe.) He’s just opened a retail location with Wild Scoops and Alaska Pasta Company in Fairview at 15th Avenue and Ingra Street.
Here’s how the story starts:
Snow may still be melting in Anchorage, but in SJ Klein’s world right now, delicate green shoots spiral out of seeds, split into tender leaves, and reach toward the pull of white light.
This springtime process plays out every few weeks year-round in the controlled environment of Klein’s hydroponic microgreen farm. He has been operating an urban sprout farm for eight years and his business, Alaska Sprouts, now supplies most of the restaurants in Anchorage. Klein’s greens turn up in sushi rolls, sub sandwiches, bowls of pho, and atop seafood specials at high-end bistros.
“I guess we feed Anchorage. It’s not a deep niche, but it’s a big enough niche so we can do it,” he said.
The soilless indoor growing process of hydroponics relies on nutrient-rich water and artificial light. It is resource intensive, in particular because of the cost of electricity. It takes certain market conditions to make an operation pencil out, Klein stated. In Anchorage, a combination of the distance from outside producers, loyal local food enthusiasts, and a growing Asian demographic make it possible.
According to Klein, Alaska Sprouts has an edge over outside producers because of quality. Sprouts are delicate and shipping can damage or freeze them. He’s worked hard to develop a reputation of having a product that is reliably fresh and available.
“If you can supply people with what they need consistently, you’re going to grow,” Klein said. Alaska Sprouts grows 10 to 15 percent each year, he adds.
Read the rest here.