Something like that. I bring this all up because about six months ago a problem arose. I needed a new job. The gig I had working as a teacher at a lovely local organic farm appeared to be over at the end of the school year. I've worked a million jobs, from freelance writer to fry cook. The thought of pitching stories, fine-tuning a resume, networking all loomed as the most tedious things in existence. I just couldn't face applying to another workplace.
I didn't want to find another job and, due to my husband's relative stability with work, I didn't need a workaholic rockstar job. Just a nice little weekly gig. So, the third path arose: self-employment. Around this time, I started researching small food businesses and then one day my mom suggested casually, "We should sell our jam." Funny, I'd been thinking the same thing. My mom's family has been farming in Carpinteria since the 1860s and I grew up watching my dad learn from his father-in-law how to tend avocados, lemons and other local crops. Jam had never been a vocation for any of us, just a necessity resulting from too much fruit all at once. What to do? Boil it down and can it as jam, then enjoy for the following year. None of this seemed any stranger than watering the trees or checking gopher traps or turning on a tractor. Just a seasonal duty that the farm required.
But now I needed work and our small farm was already skillfully tended by others, so what to do? Make jam with all the side crops, forgotten orchard leftovers, ambitious trees that had outgrown their owner's appetites. Meaning? We always had more fruit than we could handle. The excess would become the start for my jam. The catch? I was on my own. I got the green light for a jam operation, but I would be the one picking, canning and selling the jam at our family's farmers market stall. In reality, my family can't help but pitch in when there's work to be done. Still, I needed to be the initial risk-taker, the driving force, the Little Red Hen.
So, will you help me eat my jam? Unlike the childhood story, I offer it to you wholeheartedly. I am revising that tit-for-tat tale into a much more loving and all-encompassing venture. At Red Hen Cannery (and Foley Farms), we have an overabundance of fruit and we need you to help us eat it. Are you game? Of course I sometimes wish right now that there were three of me, especially when I'm juggling three batches of jam, a small child and other family responsibilities. Still, I wouldn't trade this hectic mission for another job interview, at least for now. Join me now for this record of my journey from newbie jam-maker forward, with infinite fruit flops, jam stories, and lemons squeezed along the way.