Friday, January 27, 2017

Lordy, LORD--2017 ALREADY?!

My, oh my, how time does fly!

I can't believe it has been nearly 6 months since the last post! Once the peppers start coming on heavy, though, it's a full time job to plan, pick, and process everything.

So many PEPPERS!
August-October we suffered an 'embarrassment of riches,' one might say--up to our elbows in fruits, which forced a little expansion in pepper products. While nailing down our hot sauce recipe and process for 'legalization,' we also successfully experimented with dehydration and powder-making. (A shout goes out to my friend Erin for loaning us her awesome food dehydrator.  I promise I will get it back to you soon!) We also made our vendor debut at the Downs Village Market in September.
Our first dollar!

As a result of all the extra work, our 'winter break' (which amounts to about a month from Nov-Dec), was spent making solid plans to kick 2017 up a notch on both ends of the business.

PLANTS: We decided to start seeds a full month earlier than we did last year, so around 600 went into soil between January 2-4th.  More will be in the ground soon, but this is all we had room for in the beginning!  Fewer plants will go into the BBG Garden this year overall (which means more for sale in May-June), but we will be varying the pepper types even more.

First "true" leaves are in!

Reach, babies, reeeeeach!
We said goodbye to a few strains--the Naga Viper, Jamaican Gold, Cumari--and decided to add an heirloom strain of Yellow Fatalii, a BBG 7 Pot, and some seeds we received from group trading (Mustard Habanero, Locato, Bulgarian Carrot, and Cherry Bomb, to name a few) to include in the Super Hots.  We also planted seeds from one of our more interesting cross strains from last year (White Giant Habanero x Trinidad Scorpion) and are eager to see how they come out.  We toyed with the idea of experimenting with some hydroponics this year, too, but the idea has been tabled for now.

SAUCE: We are still in the process of getting our hot sauce 'legalized' for sale at local farmer's markets.  The fees and hurdles in Illinois are high, but so are our hopes that 2017 will be THE year we finally go legit.  We have a recipe, we have our HACCP plan almost ready for submission... and hopefully will have the fee for certification raised by the time we need it.

(Not-So-Interesting Side note: Hot sauce is a funny little thing... it's not a "food" per government regulations, it's considered a condiment, and even as a condiment, it doesn't qualify for home production under the Cottage Foods Act, but rather falls under the area of a canned good.  That, in turn, puts in under and entirely different set of guidelines from 'regular' processed goods.  On top of that, our state government has been in a budget battle that has limited the number of experienced people available to help answer questions and guide us through the processes, sooo... we had to do a lot of helping ourselves in 2016.)  

BobbyGitr heading up disc sales at our DG club's fall event
DISCS:  This might be the MOST EXCITING  part yet!  We have become an approved vendor for a couple of disc golf supply companies, and will be investing a lot more time and effort on this end of the business in 2017.  We are working on our first order from Dynamic Discs (Who carry DD, Trilogy, WestSide, and Latitude 64), and have at least one tournament in the works for the year.  That means more local choices for plastic, and more chances to grow the sport!

As Danny Lindahl says, "Slow is smooth, and smooth is far..."  Hopefully our slow but smooth start into the disc business will help us grow and take us far.

Until next time... keep things... "Mmm... SPICY!"

-The HaPeppaMama

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