Steller Botanical Health: Growth in Southeast Alaska
In Gustavus, Alaska you can get farm-fresh cabbage, local fermented and aged berries, apple cider vinegar, a custom herbal formula tailored to your specific body and ailment, and bodywork therapy all in one place! Small towns often require individuals to wear many hats, and Gustavus is an amazing example of such, as it offers an eclectic array of talented community members who inspire each other.
Owners of Steller Botanical Health, Jen and Larry Landry are passionate about local foods, food security issues across Alaska, and specifically for Jen, enthusiasm about the sustainable use of medicinal herbs for natural health. She is a Health Coach, Registered Herbalist, and Asian Bodywork Therapist specializing in Ashiatsu (Japanese style of Shiatsu) and Thai Assisted Yoga.
Jen enjoys sharing her passion and enthusiasm for growing food and herbal medicine with others, finding fulfillment and joy coaching people to achieve their health goals whether through nutrition, lifestyle, herbs, emotional and/or spiritual support.
In addition to carrying gardening supplies, Steller Botanical Health also runs workshops and offers advice to local residents with the objective of increasing local access to fresh vegetables, berries, and fruits, along with skills in their preparation and preservation.
Of starting their business Jen explained they have experience gardening in the bottom of a cold valley north of Fairbanks and are delighted to be growing herbs in Southeast Alaska now, despite the challenge of rain and lack of snow.
Her favorite part? The ability to grow garlic, apple trees, and parsnips over the winter season. She explained, “We have grown all of the vegetables we eat through each year for the last 21 years and feel these are important skills to share with others. Our small market garden sells fresh produce in Gustavus, and in Juneau through Salt and Soil Marketplace and Panhandle Produce.”
The benefits and success obtained in Gustavus have not been untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic, however. The Landrys are thankful for community backing over the last year and credit the outpouring of support as a boost to their confidence and reinforcement of the value and necessity of the services they are working to provide. Of this Jen shared, “Like many, we have found unforeseen positives in the challenges, and we are super grateful for all those who went out of their way to make sure our doors stay open (safely) into the future.”
Throughout it all, Jen worked with Rural Center Director, Jennifer Adams with the Alaska SBDC on accessing pandemic relief funding, understanding the ins and outs of LLCs, and working on the businesses’ financials. About their entrepreneurial journey, she explained, “I came into business with training and a focus on my passions -the skills of agriculture, herbalism, and bodywork therapy- and have spent far too much time learning and catching up on basic business skills through uncountable mistakes. I could have saved myself numerous hard lessons by learning bookkeeping skills or valuing my time appropriately at the outset.”
Looking forward to the future, Steller Botanical Health is hiring their first local employee and hoping to identify a broader Alaskan market interested in their herbal products and coaching sessions.