When Sarah Wickers started Well Seasoned Table in 2014, she did it all. She grew produce, foraged wild greens, blended spices, and marketed her seasonings everywhere from farmers markets to retail locations. She even designed the website and packaging herself. She saw herself as the maestro of Well Seasoned Table because she had her hands in nearly every part of its complex business model.
The company makes hand-crafted herbs, spices, and teas, plus infused sugars and salts—all sourced from multiple farms and local forests. For example, the Wild Green Goddess Seasoning is made with wildcrafted greens, including ramps and garlic. When Sarah started the company, she ventured into the forest herself to harvest the ramps sustainably, careful to leave the roots so the plants can grow back the next year.
The farm-grown ingredients ran the gamut—from toasted okra seeds, to dehydrated onions and dried tomatoes, plus several varieties of hot peppers. In the early days, Sarah grew most of the produce and herbs herself. But this year she’s trying something new.
“We are going to be sourcing from other farms! This is not our first year sourcing from other farms, but it’s our first year sourcing in these quantities because we’ve upscaled so much that we needed to be able to really fine tune where everything is coming from,” she says.
Sarah will still grow herbs for tea at her own farm, but it was a big decision to hand over the reins to new people who will supply the rest of the ingredients this year. Sarah needed to find farmers she could trust to keep up the quality that she worked hard to achieve, so she came to ASAP’s Business of Farming conference.
Sarah was eager to participate in the Grower-Buyer meetings at the conference. It’s kind of like speed dating for local food. Restaurants and business owners like Sarah sit at tables scattered around the room. Farmers rotate through the tables, talking to people who want to buy the ingredients they’ll grow this season.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, being on this side of the table,” she says just minutes after the event. “It was really amazing. There were people that approached us about wanting to carry our products wholesale. There were people that approached us saying that they would like to grow these certain things for us. There were some surprises. I have somebody, I think, that’s going to grow rose petals for us, which is wonderful for our teas.”
Creating these kinds of connections within the local food community is essential to Sarah’s business, and she says networking and collaborating are some of her favorite parts of her job.
In addition to farms, Sarah also collaborates with other small businesses. For example, her salt is sourced from a local, family-owned business. She combines it with za’atar seasoning, which a local fermenter uses in their sauerkraut. A smoked fire seasoning includes extra mash from a nearby fire cider company that’s dehydrated and combined with locally-grown onions, peppers, and garlic.
“It’s outrageously good, pretty much good on everything,” she says. “My favorite thing is a vegetable soup that I make with the smoked fire in it. It is luxurious, especially over the winter when you don’t have that grilling thing, you can add a little of that and it tastes like you’re in the middle of summer.”
It’s like she’s capturing the essence of each season by gathering ingredients at their peak and preserving them for the community to enjoy all year.
“This is something that is very dear to my heart because my family goes back here to the 1700s. We’ve been farmers in this area for a very long time, and I love being able to give back to this community and to the land the way that my ancestors did,” she says.
Well Seasoned Table sells its products at farmers markets, local shops, and online. Learn more about them and dozens of other food-based businesses in ASAP’s Local Food Guide: www.appalachiangrown.org
Aired: March 2, 2020