Kenai Peninsula Food Hub members in the Homer area picked up their first orders on Wednesday from the Kachemak Community Center.
Different from a farmers market, which can be a social outing as well as a shopping trip, the food hub allows consumers to place an order online a few days prior and pick up their items on a Tuesday or Wednesday between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday is the Kenai area pick-up day at the Christ Lutheran Church at the Soldotna “Y.” Wednesday is the Homer pick-up day at the community center just across from Down East Saloon, off East End Road.
Kenai Peninsula Food Hub launched on April 29. Homer shoppers can start choosing items at noon Fridays. Shopping closes on at 10 p.m. Mondays and no orders can be submitted after. Producers — farmers and artisans — then have a day to harvest or gather products bought by food hub shoppers.
The Kenai-Soldotna shopping opens for the first time on May 12, said Cook Inletkeeper local foods coordinator Robbi Mixon.
The food hub has at least 90 members signed up for Homer and Kenai-Soldotna, Mixon said. Membership with the food hub costs $20 for consumers annually, but the membership fee is waived for all first-time orders, Mixon said. When members place their second order, they will then be prompted to pay their fee.
“We’re giving people a chance to check things out,” Mixon said.
As things gear up, the variety of products available on the food hub are few, which is not unexpected, Mixon said. During the first shopping cycle, lettuce, spinach, radishes, oysters, chicken and duck eggs, seed starters, flowers and dog chews were listed for sale in the Homer area. Mixon said more items are expected to show up as the food hub grows.
There are already plans in place for more seafood to be added to the list soon via Alaska Marine Conservation Council in Anchorage.
“They’re going to be doing some things our producers can’t do down here. We’ll probably get a lot of salmon and oysters down here, but there’s not a lot of direct marketers doing cod or halibut,” Mixon said.
“(Homer) is the halibut capital of the world, but there’s so many regulations to be able to sell fish direct to customers that it’s murky water. We’re working on trying to help our fishermen do that better because we live right by the ocean but it’s so hard to get fresh seafood.”
Producers have profiles in which they can write information about their products and farming practices, in order to differentiate themselves and allow customers to be knowledgeable about the food they buy, Mixon said. Profiles also show a listing of items sold by the farmer; a single click on an item currently for sale will bring the shopper to the shopping page to order it.
Once an order is placed and paid for with a credit card, shoppers receive a confirmation email, Mixon said. However, cards are not charged until pick-up day, which prevents a complicated refund process if an item ends up being out of stock.
Members are not tied to ordering to a certain location either. If a member who lives in Homer is in the Soldotna area and wishes to pick up their food there, a simple change of location at the beginning of the ordering process is all it takes, Mixon said.
To try the food hub, visit kenaifoodhub.com.
Homer pick-up location: Kachemak Community Center, 55906 Bear Creek Dr. on Wednesdays, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Kenai-Soldotna pick-up location: Christ Lutheran Church at the Soldotna “Y,” 128 N. Soldotna Ave. on Tuesdays, 3:30-6:30 p.m.