Raspberry farm grows while sticking to its rootsWritten by Liz LeSatz
Greg, wife Jan and their family, produce raspberry products in Fremont County for a consumer base that once found it hard to get good-quality, fresh raspberries in small Wyoming communities.
Raspberry deLight Farms saw its beginnings in the spring of 1999. The conception of the raspberry farm came after Greg grew tired of receiving similar commodity prices as he had 20 years prior. To supplement the income from their hay and small grains operation, the Jarvis’ started looking into specialty crops and the journey led them to plant several acres of the red berries.
In the beginning Greg spent countless hours on a slow dial-up Internet connection researching the crop and how to grow it.
“We had absolutely no idea how to grow this stuff,” he says, but added that his research paid off.
After a trial run with picking equipment, Raspberry deLight eventually went back to doing the task by hand. The equipment was good for picking soft berries, but the firm berries that are ideal to market as fresh were getting left behind. The Jarvis’ now rely on workers to comb the bushes for the specialty crop.
With a season from mid-August to mid-October, the Jarvis’ hit the farmer’s markets, including the one at Wyoming State Fair, and have a stand in Lander where they sell fresh raspberries and sweet corn.
Finally, after a few years of slower growth, the berry production exploded and the Jarvis’ had more fruit then they knew what to do with.
“It was good the berries didn’t come to full production until the fourth year because I don’t know what we would have done with all of them,” Greg says.
The raspberry production grew so high that demand couldn’t keep up so, the Jarvis’ started freezing berries to market in the winter. That took care of some of the product but they still didn’t know what to do with the softer raspberries. Because softer berries aren’t good for a fresh market, the farm was throwing them to the livestock. Greg says it felt like throwing money out the door so in 2004 Raspberry deLight Farms expanded into the jam business.
Beginning with four products, the company now has 15 products. Everything from jams and jellies to raspberry chipotle sauce and pancake syrup can be found with the Raspberry deLight label. The company even has sugar-free versions of some products and is in the development stages for a raspberry salsa and raspberry barbeque sauce. The products are in 12 retail stores and Greg hopes to expand to more.
To accommodate the production of their line of raspberry products, the Jarvis’ converted a calving shed into a certified kitchen equipped with radiant flooring and solar panels on the roof. The change has been well received. “I haven’t missed the calves a bit,” Greg jokes.
Head cook Lea Delay and other employees use the kitchen to cook up their sweet concoctions. Delay helps develop the recipes that Raspberry deLight markets, drawing from old-time recipes to create delectable raspberry spreads with peach, pear, apple, rhubarb and honey. It helps that the operation has a “professional” taste tester right at home.
“Greg has a excellent taste buds so he is the ‘official’ taste tester,” Delay laughs.
Being a Wyoming-made product company, the Jarvis’ understand the importance of supporting local products. They make their products with Wyoming-grown sugar and even add Niobrara County company, Guakel Grown and Ground whole-wheat products, to their gift boxes.
Raspberry deLight also offers a “u-pick” opportunity for fresh produce lovers. Customers can make a day of it and travel down to the farm to pick their own fresh raspberries and sweet corn. Eventually the Jarvis’ hope to put in a day park with picnic tables to better accommodate the folks who already come to spend the day frolicking among the berries.
“We get folks from all over the state,” Greg says. “It’s neat to see people come in and pick their own. The kids come in with their faces all red. I think they eat more than they pick and keep.”
Greg says he loves interacting with people from all over the state and they’ve made the raspberry portion of his operation an ongoing joy.
With the success of the raspberries, Greg says he would like to point more attention on the juicy moneymakers and he has a vision to keep expanding Raspberry deLight Farms. The Jarvis’ have come a long way from their search to supplement their income and now provide Wyoming and beyond with mouth-watering, home-grown products.
“It’s still home,” Delay says. “It’s still done the old home way, one batch at a time.”