Jupiter Foods brings farm-fresh produce to downtown Petaluma
Popping up recently along the alley leading from the shadow of Petaluma’s downtown clock tower to the Balshaw walking bridge, Jupiter Foods has added a small European-style grocery store to our historic downtown streets.
It packs a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables, plus a plethora of specialty products, from fresh-baked bread, to locally produced coffee, to nuts, chocolates, olive oils and honey in an intimate and inviting open-air space.
Just in time for spring, Jupiter Foods has expanded from just a couple of tables under pop-up tents to an additional indoor space with coolers of cheese, soup bases, tofu, ghee and juices, plus enough room to offer tastings and other gathers once gathers are again allowed. This has quickly gained Jupiter Foods additional attention among conscientious shoppers who may not want to wait for one of our weekly farmers markets or who prefer to have an expert do the sourcing for them.
Daniel Bleakney-Formby, founder of Jupiter Foods, is not new to locally and consciously grown fruits and vegetables. He grew up in central Iowa, the youngest of three children of a farmer and factory worker.
“Food was always a big part of our lives,” he said. “We grew just about everything we ate, from veggies to animals, and naturally, everything was highly seasonal.”
Dan and his siblings learned all about healthy and diverse farming, not realizing that someday it that would be the exception, not the norm. Then a nationwide transition began from small farms to big agriculture that began to change how people connect to the foods they consume.
“It was a time when the industry forced farmers to either go big or get out,” he said.
Committed to the farming life, Dan’s dad decided to go big, or at least as big as he could. He got rid of the animals so as to convert the pastureland into mono crops, like soybeans and corn. He even demolished most of the buildings on the property in order to make more room for crops.
“He ended up growing in every corner of the property,” he remembered. “Crops were grown right up to the house.”
After college, Dan worked for two decades in the floral industry, advancing to the position of vice president of Cactus Flower, a company with a dozen shops. He picked up invaluable experience dealing with perishable goods while learning a lot about managing people and servicing customers. He also enjoyed working within the community. These skills would all come in handy when he made the move to Napa in 2011 after a regular Fourth of July visit with friends in the area.
“My friend had a large schooner they needed help selling so I moved aboard, fixed it up, and helped sell it,” he said. He fell in the love with the area, decided to stay, working odd jobs for a while, until he landed at Oxbow Market’s Hudson Greens and Goods in Napa as general manager.
After meeting through friends, in 2015 Dan got engaged to Howard Formby, a Petaluma native, and married in 2016.
“That’s when it really struck me that so much of what we were carrying at Hudson’s in Napa was coming from Petaluma and Sonoma County,” he said. “I was literally buying Petaluma produce in Napa, only to bring it home to cook for dinner.”
This is when the idea of Jupiter Foods was born.
For the next couple of years, Jupiter Foods was an evolving concept, which finally landed, if only temporarily, at a large space in Theatre Square. That was in the fall of 2017, and due to complications related to the fires and the economic aftereffects, that location did not materialize beyond a “coming soon” sign. It was when many Petalumans first heard of Jupiter Foods and signed up for the email list, which is how we were clued in to the soft opening in the fall of 2020.
In the span between Jupiter Foods “1.0” and the current iteration, Dan spent a lot of time engaging with organizations like the Sonoma County Food System Alliance.
“We envision a system in which local growers and processors are economically viable, the physical environment is maintained, and consumers have access to healthy, affordable food,” he said.
Dan has also worked heavily this past year on the Emergency Food Response Coalition within the FSA. Additionally, Dan serves as vice chair of the board of directors of Daily Acts, which works as an environmental education.
“Both organizations help my connection to the community emphasizing food sovereignty and eco-justice,” he said.
The name Jupiter dates to Dan’s youth in Newton, Iowa. “Jupiter was our local five and dime,” Dan reminisced. “I would go in with my allowance and could always find something to buy, from candy to models to other interesting things.”