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“Salt Farmers” Find Market For Specialty Products
 If it’s important to know where the meat and produce you eat comes from, you might also be interested in knowing the source of the salt you season with.

    Like grapes flavored by the region they grow in, salts taste different too, says Nancy Bruns of Charleston, W. Va. She and her brother Lewis Payne “struck brine” three years ago, and became the family’s seventh generation to harvest salt.

    “It has 6 percent trace minerals, which give it a different flavor,” explains Bruns, who is a trained chef. “And our salt is naturally processed by solar evaporation. Others boil it down.”

    J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, located in Kanawha Valley in West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains, produced salt from 1817 to 1945. The siblings used old family documents to choose a site for a new well and struck salt water at 350 ft. They began harvesting and selling salt in 2013.

    The water is pumped into tanks to allow the iron to settle out. The iron is sold as a natural dye, and the remaining water is piped to shallow beds in sunhouses. The liquid evaporates, leaving salt crystals.

    “It takes about five weeks from the time we pump it out of the ground until we can put it in a jar,” Bruns says. “It takes more time and labor, but it was important to us to use solar evaporation and be environmentally sensitive.”

    Well known chefs, food writers and others in the food community appreciate that, the unique flavor and the nutritional value of the artisanal salt. It is the only salt in the northern hemisphere made from a brine aquifer.

    The regular customer list of famous chefs and restaurants continues to grow, and consumers can order directly from the business’s website, starting at $5 for a 1-oz. jar. The salt comes in different crystal sizes from the finest (popcorn salt) to medium (heirloom) salt for regular cooking to grinding salt often used on bakery items.

    “We recommend that salt is added just before you eat it,” Bruns says, to appreciate the full flavor and the texture.

    Bruns, her brother and his wife, Paige, are pleased to revive a family tradition and find a marketplace interested in local, artisanal foods. They host farm-to-table dinners, bring in chefs, and cross promote other local foods with their salt.

    Recently they added two new flavored salts, Ramp Salt and Smoked Salt.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, 4797 Midland Dr., Charleston, W. Va. 25306 (ph 304 925-7918; www.jqdsalt.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #4