Ben Jacobsen

 
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The Salty Dog of Netarts Bay

Ben Jacobsen is the first person to harvest salt off the Oregon Coast since Lewis and Clark.

Follow him: @ben_jacobsen

Follow him: @ben_jacobsen

Ben Jacobsen started making salt in 2011, and it didn’t take long for the former Vancouver resident to land on some important radars.The New York Times wrote a story about him in 2012. Noted chefs started to use his salt from Oregon waters. And a Williams-Sonoma Inc. partnership sent his business on a fast, ascending trajectory that hasn’t slowed. Jacobsen, 43, no longer participates in making the white, flaky crystals. And long gone are the days when he’d drive a seawater-loaded truck from the Oregon Coast to Portland for processing into salt. These days, the Hudson’s Bay High School graduate’s focus is marketing, sales, and product development. For the future, he plans for more of the same, convinced he’s got the world’s best job.Jacobsen didn’t show signs of becoming a salt maker when he arrived in Vancouver at age 13 from Burlington, Vt., with his family. His father, neurologist Dr. Paul Jacobsen, had accepted work in town. His mother, Jane Jacobsen, would one day be executive director of the Vancouver-based Confluence Project. Not inspired by software, marketing and sales, Jacobsen followed his hunch. Using $1,500 of his own money, he set out in his 2008 Subaru Forester and traveled the Washington and Oregon coasts, searching for perfect saltwater.

He traveled as far north as Neah Bay at the northwest tip of the Lower 48 and he traveled south, sampling the waters of Willapa Bay in Southwest Washington. In all, he tested 20 spots in Washington and Oregon, ruling out most for obvious reasons: too much turbulence or too many sources of freshwater into the seawater or too much runoff from dairy and logging operations. But at a spot off Whiskey Creek Road, a few miles north of Cape Lookout State Park and a dozen miles inland of Tillamook, Ore., Jacobsen found the spot.

It’s at Netarts Bay, chosen because it’s protected from the crashing ocean surf and, best of all, features high-salinity water that’s filtered through millions of oysters. Jacobsen Salt Co. was started.

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