The Farm: 10 acres of certified organic cranberries on the Long Beach peninsula of Washington
What They Seed:
The first certified organic cranberries in the state of Washington; support & consult with other Washington & Oregon cranberry farms to transition to organic
What They Feed: 100% raw, unsweetened cranberry juice; frozen fruit; dried berries sweetened with organic apple juice concentrate (coming soon!)
Where You Can Find Them:
Seattle Farmers Markets: Ballard (Sunday), University District (Saturday), West Seattle (Saturday), Shoreline
Portland Farmers Markets: King (Sunday), PSU (Saturday), Hillsdale (Sunday), Beaverton (Saturday)
Retail: Marx Foods, Cone & Steiner (Seattle), New Seasons Markets (Portland), Astoria Co-op (Astoria)
Feeders They Supply:
Seattle Bars & Restaurants: Good Bar, E Smith Mercantile, Tavern Law, Local 360, Pennyroyal, Lola, Palace Kitchen, The Gerald, Tutta Bella, Rob Roy
Portland Bars & Restaurants: Ava Genes, Church Bar, Kachka, The Woodsman Tavern, Multnomah Whiskey Library, Bowery Bagels, Raven & Rose, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Lardo, Olympic Provisions
Collaborations: Hopworks, Jacobsen Salt, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Quin Candy, KitchenCru, New Deal Distillery, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, House Spirits Distillery
Jared Oakes and Jessika Tantisook agreed to take over a cranberry farm on the Long Beach peninsula on the condition that they could take it organic. Jared’s parents, who spend most of their time commercial fishing in Southeast Alaska, had purchased the conventionally-farmed bog next to Jared’s childhood home. Within a couple of years they established it was too challenging for them to hobby farm a commodity crop on such a small scale.
At that time, Jared and Jessika were wrapping up jobs in Columbus, OH: Jessika worked for AmeriCorps as a community garden coordinator and Jared was on a small, but high-yielding, diversified organic farm. They took the opportunity and moved back to Washington, with no experience in cranberry farming. They faced strong skepticism from farmers and experts that it could even be done organically there.
They started at Starvation Alley in Fall of 2010 and had a “rough couple of years” trying to figure out what they were doing; their yield dropped about 70%. As part of the Ocean Spray co-op and with their yield decreasing, they realized it was not financially possible to stay in the co-op. They began to brainstorm alternatives; one thing the co-op did was guaranteed a market and a price for the fruit, so what would they do with all of the fruit? Through prototyping some options, they arrived at cranberry juice: pure, unsweetened, cold-pressed and hand-bottled into 16 oz and 32 oz bottles.
The full Starvation Alley team has come together throughout the past 5 years, originally connecting through Pinchot University where Jessika & Jared pulled in Alex Mondau & Alana Kanbury, fellow MBA students in Sustainable Business.
In October 2013, Starvation Alley was the first to certify 10 acres of organic cranberries in the state of Washington. The main challenges were pests (black-headed fire worms), fertilizing and weeding. However, since then yields have only gone up.
They proved it was possible and have changed the perception, especially locally. No longer do people say that organic cranberry farming isn’t possible, but everyone agrees it is still challenging.
So they’ve taken it a step further: consulting and providing support to conventional cranberry farmers that are willing to make the transition to organic. Starvation Alley now offers a “Local Harvest” juice label, using fruit from those transitional farms while they go through the three year certification process.
Did You Know? The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown.
Starvation Alley is now made up of an entire team of “farmers, juicers and doers”, based on the Long Beach peninsula but reaching to Seattle and Portland markets. Their juice is sold at farmers markets and retail shops as well as used in bars and restaurants “for concoctions” across the Pacific Northwest. Starvation Alley is also a B Corporation a certification by the nonprofit B Lab “to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
The name Starvation Alley comes from a nickname for the road that the farm is on, established during the great depression. It was where many of the migrant works and day laborers of the oyster and cranberry industries lived. Now the name is “an ode for everyone that has worked hard for our food, like we do”, says Jessika.
“Fundamentally people just want to come together and hang out”
“Part of the reason we’re so compatible is that we both really love food. We love the community and the people and the celebration that food usually brings, especially local food. Organic is a piece of that, but it’s definitely not the whole picture.” – Jessika Tantisook describes the relationship with her partner Jared Oakes