Appalachian Grown: J.Q Dickinson Salt-Works

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MALDEN W.Va. – Seventh generation salt farmer Nancy Bruns knows how to spice up any dish.

“It has a very addictive quality to it. So it’s great on any food,” CEO and Co-Founder of J.Q Dickinson Salt Works, Nancy Bruns, explained.

Her ancestors started making salt back in 1817 but went out of business when salt sales declined in the 1940s. However, salt making is something that she and her brother Lewis Payne found their way back to in 2013.

“I saw an opportunity in the salt market that the chefs and consumers were really getting interested in salts from all around the world. And being that Kanawha Valley was a major leader in salt production for so long and we still owned this land, I saw a real opportunity to bring it back and to have this niche product,” Bruns detailed.

A niche product that is quite literally – Appalachian grown.

“It is all done here. So we have a well that goes down 350 feet deep and draws the brine up to the surface, and we put it in our sun houses, and it’s all processed right here,” Bruns said.

That well taps into the ancient Iapetus ocean trapped underneath the Appalachian mountings. That water then goes into a tank to settle. Moves again to the first set of sun houses for evaporation. Then a second sun house for crystallization. It gets hand-harvested, cleaned, dried, sifted, and finally packaged.

Through that process Burns gets about four ounces of salt for every gallon of water from the well.

“We make six different flavor salts. We have two smoked salts; we have a ramp salt with West Virginia grown ramps; we have a mushroom herb salt. We do a ghost pepper salt, and let’s see then our plan salt is our sixth.”

The Smoked Salts are made by going into a smoker for two days and come in Applewood and Burbon Barrel flavors. All are made with natural minerals straight from West Virginia land.

“So, highly processed salt is only sodium chloride with anti-caking agents added to it,” Bruns explained. “Our salt contains a 6 percent trace minerals, magnesium is a really important mineral that most Americans are deficient in so your getting that and calcium is really good for you as well as potassium. So we think that our salt is a healthier alternative and it’s a great-tasting salt well so it’s a win-win.”

You can find J.Q. Dickinson salt in more than 800 stores statewide, but it might also be on some of your other favorite foods already.

“We also partner with a lot of other Appalachian producers, and we sell their products here, or they’re using our salt in their products, and we sell those. We have potato chips made with our salt, peanuts; the Appalachian chocolate company uses our salt in their chocolate. But we also like to promote Appalachian producers in general,” Bruns said.

The farm also hosts events like weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, and any other private event. They also host their own events for the community.

“Typically, once a month, we actually host farm-to-table dinners here at Salt-Works. They’re actually open to the public. We sell tickets for those on our website and through Facebook. And we hire Appalachian-based chefs to come in and prepare those meals for those guests. Unfortunately, in 2020 we did have to cancel that series due to the pandemic, but we are hoping through the vaccination process that this year we can restart that with social distancing practices and mask mandates,” Ashton Pence, Head Event Planner at Salt-Works, said.

All Salt-Works products can be found by clicking/tapping here.

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