Roaming Root 'Veggie Bus' Launches This Spring
A Fairbanks entrepreneur wants to make fresh, local food more accessible with a year-round farmers market – on wheels. Erica Moeller is converting an old school bus to a mobile food store.
The vehicle is a standard school bus, minus the seats and it’s painted blue. As Erica Moeller walks through it, explaining her vision, it seems wrong to call it a food truck, even though it will be selling food.
“I think the term ‘veggie bus’ is the term I’ve heard thrown around more so than ‘food truck.’ It’s a nice, bright open space, where we can beautifully display our Alaskan produce and Alaska-made products.”
Those products are vegetables, of course, but also Kenai Peninsula hair care and soap from Fairbanks.
“We have a pet section, so we’ll be selling dog treats and antler chews. And we will be selling jams, jelly, honey, eggs. I want to sell meat. Cuts of meat; pork and beef and reindeer from farmers. I really want to turn this into a one-stop shop.”
As Moeller points where refrigerators and shelves will be, she says there is not enough connection between people who grow food in Alaska, and those who eat it. She is calling the bus the “Roaming Root,” to remind shoppers of the connection.
“My hope for the economy is to make agriculture a more realistic endeavor for more people.”
As a food entrepreneur in Interior Alaska, Moeller talks about food scarcity, agribusiness and reducing Alaska’s big carbon footprint from shipping food up here.
“Economic sustainability is a big conversation that we are having in the state right now. Everything I buy is made in the state, so all the money I’m giving to these small businesses isn’t leaving the state. The people who are giving me money, it’s not leaving the state. So, we’re closing some loops on our economy.”
A friend suggested Fort Wainwright and military families and others on small incomes might be a target market for the Roaming Root bus.
“One of the things I want this bus to do is to destroy the myth that local food is financially inaccessible to people. Especially up here, when our food has to be trucked so far; the customer absorbs that cost of transportation.”
Eventually, Moeller says she’d like to grow the mobile farmers market into a much-larger distribution company selling local foods.
“I worked in logistics for 10 years, so the supply-chain-management annoying headaches are ones that I am well versed in. It’ll be a challenge, but it is the kind of challenge I really enjoy.”
While the bus is being remodeled, Moeller is heavily marketing her plan and trying to attract investors, even small ones.
“We are trying to raise the remaining start-up funds we need to get on the road by March 6th.”
The Roaming Root has a page on the independent fundraising website Indiegogo.com. She has given herself a January 8th deadline to raise the rest of the money. After that she is going to refine the list of vendors and start ordering.