By Alicia Cunningham | Jun 02, 2016
When Brady Peeters was only a year old, he exhibited signs of severe allergies. His mother, Heather Peeters, walked into a grocery store with a list from a doctor of things Brady needed to stay away from.
“It was a shock,” Peeters said. “I could not buy anything, really hardly anything. So my husband and I started growing as much food as we could. There was no end in mind. We were just going to grow as much as possible and see what we could do from there.”
Peeters husband, Tony, is a chef with Sushi Groove. His love of food, and farming, helped move this young family through unfamiliar waters. “He loves farming,” Peeters adds. “His whole life has been in food, but farming is his passion. That’s what we gets up for in the morning.”
Growing more food than their young family could use, the Peeters began selling their crops at farmers markets. They were particularly interested in growing fresh herbs because herbs grew well in small spaces.
“We started with basil, rosemary and sage. Since we had more than we could use, we dehydrated it and used it in our own cooking. We bought onions, garlics and peppers, and we began making different blends,” Peeters says.
Peeters took the spices, bottled them, and distributed them as Christmas presents. That was the real beginning of Solstice Spices.
“You see other farmers selling salsas or jams. This was our natural progression. And we had great feedback with people asking for more and asking that we sell them. In 2014, we invested in getting a professional label. We fulfilled the requirements with the Department of Agriculture. We made the jump and decided: we were really going to do this,” Peeters says.
With their farm, the Peeters started with a half -acre but quickly moved to a full acre and will be doubling again to two. Peeters is not anxious to go much bigger because right now Solstice Spices are manufactured by hand. She doesn’t even have a tractor. Just a tiller as well as a few rakes and shovels and her own hands.
“This year we have been lucky to work with Salt Lake County, and they have connected us with a property owner that will lease two acres for us to use,” Peeters says. The Peeters have access to the land and the property owners get a tax relief in return.
“It works,” Peeters says. “They receive an incentive, and we get the benefit of the land because we cannot afford market prices for land. We can accomplish quite a bit with two acres, using the same techniques: everything by hand.”
After crops have been farmed, they are prepared for sale in a kitchen which used to belong to the cookie master: Mrs. Fields. Unfortunately, Peeters says, it no longer smells like chocolate chip cookies.
Challenges: Starting a business from scratch without a model to follow. “We had to figure out each state on our own. There are so many different things to learn, so many facets. We understood food, but we had to learn shipping, international trade, state regulations, marketing. It’s a challenge.”
Opportunities: Riding the wave of local support. Peeters understands that more people want to buy local and support local businesses. “They want to know how their food is grown and they want to know the people involved. It is a great time to be doing what we do.”
Needs: Maintaining a consistent cash flow. Farming is not for the risk adverse, Peeters warns. “You have to invest a lot in the spring for crops, compost and equipment and our production is really two months: September and October. We have to reinvest every year and each year is another risk.”