Windermere’s Saunders Family Farm recently took two big steps. The local homegrown business is now certified to sell its products nationwide and has set up an online shop.
The family-run business makes jams, jellies and pickled jalapenos in addition to managing a mid-sized farm. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has given its stamp of approval to the Saunders’ produce kitchen, with the family passing the final inspection on Monday, May 13th. The Saunders can now sell anywhere in Canada.
“It’s a huge deal. It’s something that when I first started doing this, I never thought that that’s where we’d be,” Faith Saunders said.
It’s definitely an opportunity for the business to move up, said Faith’s son Tanner.
The Saunders’ new e-commerce website sells all 22 of their jams, jellies, jalapenos and other products. These two developments along with the rapid growth the business has experienced over the last four years could place the Saunders Family Farm on the same trajectory as Kicking Horse Coffee, a local business that has gone on to national-level success.
“We have been told we’re the next Kicking Horse Coffee. Obviously we don’t know if that will happen, but we’re hoping. We’re striving. We’re not just sitting back and saying we have enough clients,” said Faith.
The Saunders’ key to success is simple recipes — whole fruit, lemon juice and a bit of sugar, said Tanner.
“There’s no substitute for the original taste of the fruit,” he said.
Faith and her husband, Gordon, ran Win-Valley farm for 16 years, beginning in 1986, before selling it and moving on to others things. But by 2009 the couple was back farming again, this time in their current location as the Saunders Family Farm, as well as starting up the jam and jelly operation.
Faith has a family background in jams and berries — her mother used to make great strawberry and raspberry jams and her grandfather farmed strawberries in Windermere starting in 1908, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when she began making jam in her kitchen.
“Just a few jars here and there,” she said. “Nobody else in the valley does jams and jellies, so I thought it would be a good market to get into.”
Business has boomed, more than doubling each year. In the second year, the Saunders built a large produce kitchen in their basement so they could pump out more jars. They moved quickly from selling at farmers’ markets to selling at local stores, such as Village Arts, AG Valley Foods, Grant’s Food, the Quality Bakery and a few more in Radium and Fairmont. They hope to be selling in stores in the Calgary area quite soon.
The Saunders make more than 50 cases of jam a week during the summer.
“The business has grown so much we can’t handle it on our own,” said Faith, so Tanner now helps manage the operation and they employ four other people.
Strawberry jam is still the top seller, but people are often intrigued by spicy options, such as rhubarb jalapeno, said Faith.
The farm has 15,000 strawberry plants and people can come pick their own in the summer.
The Saunders will donate five per cent of their online profits to charity.