Homesteading: Jorah Roussopoulos and Andi Rubalcaba
with their children, Ember and Reese. Photo by Ted Holladay.
“We really just want to be a homesteader’s convenience store,” says Mountain Feed and Farm Supply owner Jorah Roussopoulos. But instead of a six-pack of Budweiser and some Lay’s potato chips, this colorful “convenience store” offers books and kits on how to brew your own beer and seed potatoes for growing your own crop.
In fact, if a do-it-yourselfer’s convenience store sounds a bit like an oxymoron, the truth is that Mountain Feed is so much more than that: a veritable sustainable-living country store, ready to outfit anyone from any walk of life who wants to live a little more in harmony with the planet—and find stellar customer service while they’re at it. Roussopoulos and his wife, Andi Rubalcaba, first opened the store at the “bend in Ben Lomond” in September 2004 as a destination for mountain folk to get chicken feed and fuel from a solarpowered biodiesel filling station. But the ambition of the former high school sweethearts, who worked nights to gradually build up their inventory— he as a bartender and she as a beautician—has always been palpable when you walk in the door.
Today, Mountain Feed employs more than a dozen full-time staffers and each of several departments offers a specialist who is truly expert at helping customers find what they’re looking for and can offer tips and advice on any given project.
The business has also fanned out into five different buildings and about an acre across the street that houses “homesteading infrastructure,” also known as “the big stuff”—soil, compost, water tanks and the like.
In the main buildings, merchandise is arranged progressively, from the basics to the obscure.
“Planting seeds to canning jams, our goal is to be able to take people full cycle from production to preservation,” Roussopoulos says. That means you can walk in and easily find the standards that most feed stores provide: pet products, livestock feed, seed propagation supplies, soil amendments and anything for the home garden. But wandering in deeper, you’ll discover what makes Mountain Feed so unique.
The Homesteading Housewares department, for example, is packed full to the gills with everything “dedicated to the gardener’s kitchen,” Roussopoulos says. The space is organized by theme, from soda making to bread baking to fermenting to pickling to canning to dehydrating to curing. All of the bakeware is American made, and even professional chefs and commercial food producers shop there due to the hard-to-find selection in stock.
Local food artisans are also well represented. “If it’s edible in here, it’s local,” Roussopoulos says.
Next door, in the space housing most of the seed and garden products, you can find an array of beekeeping supplies, chicken care items and wild bird feeding supplies. And around back in the “Edible Nursery,” there is always a wide array of seasonally appropriate items, currently consisting of bare fruit trees, spring veggie starts and even hops, horseradish, currant and gooseberry trees, not to mention the vibrant collection of ceramic glazed pots and locally made, artistic repurposed tables, sink stations and cooler cubbies for sale.
Sadly, Mountain Feed’s source for local recycled biodiesel dried up, so the filling station is gone.
But all in all, the store has been a beloved boon to its immediate community and a draw for new customers from far corners of the foodshed who are anything but a convenient distance away.
So what’s ahead?
Mountain Feed is “stocked by popular demand,” says Roussopoulos. “People tell us what they want, and we listen.”