Agricultural businesses – Diversified Ag Tour explores local companies in Fremont County
Riverton – Wyoming business owners shared their expertise on June 23 during the 13th Annual Diversified Ag Tour, organized by the Wyoming Business Council.
Deb’s Salsa and Pepper Jelly was one of the featured businesses at this year’s tour, which took place in Fremont County.
“I’ve been making pepper jelly for my family for 30 years. Everyone has their little specialty item that they make, and pepper jelly was my thing,” owner Deb Childers said.
To raise money for a trip to Europe to visit one of her children, Childers decided to try selling her pepper jelly at a local farmers’ market.
“I thought if I sold a little bit at each market then it would be worth it. My attitude was that every five dollars I made was five dollars I didn’t have before,” she said.
After becoming certified to sell her fresh salsa and spicy pepper jelly, Childers took her product to the market.
“I had this old, wooden card table that was second hand and in rickety shape, but it was my first table. I set it up at the farmers’ market, set my jelly and my salsa on it, and I made $30. I was so excited!” she noted.
Soon, Childers began to turn more attention to the presentation of her product and realized that it made a big impact.
“I started selling my product in Kerr jars,” she explained. “As the holidays rolled around and people were starting to buy product to send out to their families, I wanted something that looked a bit nicer.”
After shopping around, Childers found tall, skinny glass jars.
“I like the way they feel in my hand, and I like working with them,” she stated.
Childers and her daughter also came up with a company label, making sure to meet Wyoming Department of Agriculture standards.
“I learned quickly that presentation is what it’s all about. We can have the exact same product in a Kerr jar with a white sticky label and have the new jars right next to them, and people will buy the new jars,” she commented, adding that presentation is well worth the time and effort put into it.
Consumers can recognize Deb’s Salsa and Pepper Jelly at a farmers’ market or expo by looking for a white shirt and red apron.
“We all wear the same apron and the same white shirts. People get to where they can recognize us,” Childers said. “The uniform looks more professional, and I think people are naturally drawn to it.”
“Made In Wyoming” stickers are also applied to the salsas and jellies to appeal to consumers looking for locally-made products.
“When this started, it became a business really fast,” Childers continued.
Multiple corporations, such as Costco, have approached her about putting her products in their stores.
“I’m at a crossroads because that is taking another step, and it would become full time,” she noted.
Childers also has another job in addition to making, marketing and selling her farmers’ market products.
“My daughters and I only have so much time, and we have to come up with a balance that works best for us,” she explained.
Currently, Deb’s Salsa and Pepper Jelly is represented at multiple markets per week, including the Riverton market, Lander market and multiple outreach markets.
“I am cutting back on some of them this summer,” she commented. “If I were to do four markets a week, I would be going through 100 tubs of salsa.”
Childers has recruited her daughters to attend some markets, and she also plans on doing a few holiday expos.
“There are a few markets that I will not give up. I love the Riverton market. I have people there, and I have to see them,” she stated.
The social aspect of her business is something that Childers highly enjoys.
“There are direct sales and indirect sales,” she explained. “If my product were sitting on the shelf, it would probably sell, but not as much as when I can be there sampling and handing it out for people to try right then and there.”
Working along with other businesses is also an important social aspect for Childers.
“In our area, most businesses are very supportive,” she stated.
When she first started, Childers used local restaurant kitchens to be sure that her product complied with standards for selling fresh and pepper-filled products.
“When people call me, I try to be helpful because I know what it’s like. Maybe I can pass on some of my experience and that saves them a little bit of work,” she commented.
Since everyone’s product is a little different, competing businesses can actually be allies as they work together to sell and market their goods.
“I don’t see them as competition,” said Childers. “My salsa has it’s own unique flavor, and their salsa has its own unique flavor. At the end of the day, everyone has their own taste buds.”
Childers does her best to grow her own vegetables or to buy them locally, working with other Wyoming businesses.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is people helping people,” she remarked.
Although Deb’s Salsa and Pepper Jelly started out as a simple idea, it has grown into something more.
“It is so rewarding to me. When people come and try my product and like it, it just makes it worth it. That’s why I keep doing it,” Childers explained.
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at email@example.com.