Hey Y’all! January has come to an end. While we still have a few months of Winter, followed by the Appalachian “Little Winters” we dream of better days; peaceful and productive. We are grateful for this journey to make gourmet jams!
When we were market farmers, we used to joke about January as the best month of farming because there was time to rest and catch-up. But now we are farmers AND jam producers with a new game plan.
This January has flown by! The New Year brings excitement, hope, and uncertainty. Such is the life of a farmer and food entrepreneur. Joyce Pinson, Friends Drift Inn
January Has Been a Hustle!
Are you a farmer or food entrepreneur?
How are YOU resting in January?
Most folks assume that January is “down-time” for fruit and vegetable farmers. You know what they say about “assume?” Giggles
Not only are we producing in the kitchen, we are continually jumping through the federal regulations to assure we are complying on Friends Drift Inn Farm as well as the kitchen!
We are committed to creating gourmet jams right here in Appalachia that are not only “fruit forward” and tasty; but produced in strict food safety methods.
What We Did in January
Classes and Certifications
“Idleness is the Devil’s workshop,” Grandma used to say. I reckon the Devil has gone elsewhere because we have been busy in January!
Here’s A Few of the Classes We Took in January :
- Produce Safety Alliance Farm Plan – Follow-up to our Federal Certification Training (FSMA Food Safety Modernization Act)
- Extension Pest Management and Disease Prevention for Crops – Certified Training
- Learning Excel for Farm Plans and Budgets – UK Center for Crop Diversification
- Understanding Food Trade Shows Selling Wholesale – Alli Ball Food Marketing Consultant
- Growing Your Business with YouTube Videos – SOAR Shaping Our Appalachian Region
- 2020 Flavor Trends – Food Business News
- Pike County Soil Conservation Grant Training – Kentucky Agriculture Development Funds
- Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference – University of Kentucky, Kentucky Horticultural Council
- Food and Beverage Growth Summit – Hosted by Ainsley Moir, Packaged Food Expert and Advisor
Friends Drift Inn Farm Doings
We have been farming for a number of years, focusing on building a food economy here in Appalachia. But, we are pivoting our business model.
As we transition from growing for farmers market, to growing for our jam business we are making big plans. Knowing what varieties to grow, finding the most economical seeds, taking soil tests, and updating our water plan is just part of the January process.
Growing Berries New Venture at Friends Drift Inn Farm
With the help of Kentucky Horticulture Council and our Extension Specialist at UK Robinson Center in Breathitt County, we are embarking on a new venture to grow early blackberries and black raspberries. We are preparing the fields for sustainable permaculture production beginning with berries, which produce several years from the same plantings.
In addition to getting brambles planted and trellised this spring, we will be looking into new irrigation systems and barriers to keep out varmints – especially deer.
Early crops will give us time to harvest before the “stink bug season” which is the bane of berry producers throughout the US. We will use some berries fresh, and freeze others for our line of jams.
We are thankful to Gilkerson Farms for allowing us to visit their farm and see actual berry production practices!
We need a ship load of peppers!
With demand for our pepper jellies and jams exceeding expectations, honestly, we don’t know if we can keep up on the farming process.
Thankfully, Grow Appalachia, has helped us develop a path of progress. Not only are they helping with soil recommendations, they have helped us with plant varieties, spacings, and projected harvest yields.
Here is Friends Drift Inn Pepper Patch plans:
- Bell Peppers – Red and Green for Red Pepper Jelly and Pepper Jelly
- Jalapeno Peppers – Pepper Jelly, Strawberry Jalapeno Jam, and coming this fall Jalapeno “Cowboy Candy” a pickled product
- Habanero Peppers – Our Peach Habanero Jam is one of our most popular. Habanero’s are a bit of a challenge for us, they take a very long time to mature way down in the fall. We will have to outsource these most of the summer, doing our level best to find local growers.
- Carolina Reapers – YIKES! We have never grown these bad boys before! Hot and long-season maturity. These will be a trial run to see what we can do.
Challenges Growing Peppers
We loathe spraying. We try to have a “bee friendly farm.”
Stink Bugs are a pain in peppers, with other buggers nearly as devastating. We are going to plant a trap crop of sunflowers around the perimeters of the pepper patch. The idea is bugs will stop at the flowers, and hopefully be satisfied.
Our second challenge is deer.
Y’all may think Bambi is cute, but we have lost thousands of dollars in crops as the deer descend on our fields. We are working on fencing, but that is costly. The deer come through and top out the main lateral of our field grown peppers which stunts the plant lowering production significantly.
January had us working out solutions to grow peppers – and combat varmints that want to eat our cash crops.
Tomatoes and High Tunnel Production
We will be rolling out Bourbon Tomato Jam just in time for grilling season! We use a variety of tomatoes, mostly paste. Some are high volume production and others are tasty heirlooms. (We are founders of the Appalachian Heirloom Seed Swap)
We grow tomatoes in the field, but the bulk of our production comes from the high tunnel. A high tunnel is an unheated greenhouse. The advantages are intensive “tight” planting – a sustainable practice known as “French Bio-Intensive Method.”
Popularized by Jean Martin Fortier, the system allows tomatoes to be trellised growing up to 12 feet tall! Placed on a pulley system the tomato vines are lowered over time, allowing for increased output from each plant.
Planning Our Work – Working the Plan
Website – Time Invested
It took a lot longer to get the website operational than we had planned on. Almost 8 months! It is a work in progress, but is fully functioning site with ecommerce, recipes, and a knowledge center.
We are grateful to MACED, Mountain Association Community for Economic Development, for their assistance in making our site happen.
Recipes and Website Content Creation
(We love blueberry muffins filled with jam!)
Our goal is to have 100 new recipes on this site by January 2021. Every recipe we share on the site takes me about three days to complete.
First, there is developing a base recipe and cooking a trial. This may take a couple of tries!
Next, the recipe is completed, styled and photographed. (We are working on video production too!) Then the content which explains recipe, serving suggestions, health and nutrition, plus nuggets about sustainable farm production and Appalachian culture is created.
Lastly, the content is uploaded to the website. Certain coding must be done to link recipes to products and tell Google just what the post is about so it will be indexed properly.
And then, of course there is the “push” with Social Media and our newsletter. It is always something!
Events and Festivals
Planning for trade shows and festivals takes time. Professional exhibits do not just happen! There are displays to design. There are fliers to create, what the industry calls “sell sheets, “for our wholesale promotions. Plus, we must make sure we have inventory to deliver what we sell!
Upcoming Events Include:
- Feb. 15, 2020 Bourbon and Spirits Winterfest – Appalachian Wireless Arena, Pikeville, KY
- Feb. 28, 2020 Meet the Buyers – Kentucky Horticulture Council Morehead KY
- March 13-15 Kentucky Crafted Show – Kentucky Arts Council – Kentucky Proud Lexington, KY
- April 24 -25, 2020 Kentucky Proud Market – Morehead, KY
- April 28 – 29 Kentucky Derby Winefest – Kentucky Proud – Louisville, KY
For more information visit our Events Calendar.
Producing Gourmet Jam and Jelly
Y’all if getting all these ducks in a row makes you tired just thinking about it, well you see how farmers and food entrepreneurs “rest” in the winter.
In January, we have been in CANE Kitchen getting those sweet jars filled with our existing flavors, plus working on new products.
Did you know that any jam or jelly that contains a vegetable or herb must have testing by the Better Processing Authority? It is a process that takes about 8 weeks – and it does not happen for free!
That said, we are developing several new products that will be unveiled just in time for the Kentucky Crafted Market Show in Lexington. Stand by for news.
Looking to February
We will be starting our seedlings in February. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.
If you are looking for our team we will be “resting” in the kitchen cranking out jams and jellies and dreaming of summer on Johns Creek and Pine Mountain.
Follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for behind the scenes snaps of “Growing A Good Life in Appalachia” via Friends Drift Inn.
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