Merchant of the Month - Windstone Farms|
Click Here to visit the Windstone Farms webstore
Back in 1985, Wayne Shumate, from Paris, Kentucky a high profile entrepreneur in the textile industry, decided that he needed a diversion of sorts… so he opted to get back to his roots: by farming a parcel of the 110 acre WindStone Farm in Central Kentucky that had belonged to the Shumate family for several generations. The old stone house that sits on the property was built in 1812 and is used as a packing station for fresh blackberries that are sold in retail grocery stores in the immediate area during the July/August time frame. At the time, tobacco was one of the Commonwealth's main crops - but Wayne, in his typical "swimming against the tide" mode, decided to plant and raise thornless blackberries. Two years of abundant sunshine, just the right amount of rain, and lots of tender loving care (Much of it by Wayne himself) - bore fruit - literally and figuratively.
Each plump berry is hand picked, then slowly simmered w/ sugar. All natural. Blackberries by the bushel full were harvested and sold through local farmers markets and retail grocery stores. But as the season wore on, the supply (which was enormous, around 2,000lbs per acre) exceeded the demand. Even though these juicy Kentucky berries were talked about everywhere, there were only so many blackberry cobblers and jam cakes that could be made in a week. So Wayne dug out old family recipes for making blackberry jam - bought hundreds of pounds of pure cane sugar, boxes upon boxes of quart jars and began making the "Real Stuff", his own private label blackberry jam to give to his family and friends. Many of the recipients complimented Wayne on the uniqueness and quality of the Jam and convinced Wayne to try selling his jam in retail grocery stores.
So fully aware of the probable large scale success of this "purple hued cottage industry" - Wayne sought the help of a seasoned retail food broker, long-time friend, Billy Gatton Jones. Billy Gatton had recently sold his stake in a large Midwestern food brokerage company named SELL, INC, that had multiple offices. His expertise included sales, marketing and merchandising specialty grocery-type items for 31 years. The two formed a wonderful partnership and began to produce (by more conventional methods than in the Shumate family kitchen) - the delicious wildly popular WindStone Farms Blackberry Jam from berries grown on the farm's 8 foot tall thornless vines. Each berry was hand picked, then slowly simmered with pure cane sugar, always in small batches - and never with any preservatives. The Jam became a perfect ingredient in entrees, sauces, dressings, cobblers, jam cakes and other deserts… but was then and is today best enjoyed by just spooning it on warm bread and savoring the incredible blackberry taste.
Fast Forward 6 years, and the certified "Kentucky Proud" Jam, the official State fruit of Kentucky, is now distributed throughout the mid-south as a regional favorite in at least 1,000 stores- for recipes, gift giving, and as a popular pantry shelf necessity. Wayne Shumate died in late 2005, but his entrepreneurial spirit and his coveted family jam recipe were passed on to Billy Gatton Jones, who now is the sole owner of WindStone Farms, LLC and its entire blackberry production. The Jam is now produced by Algood Foods, a Kentucky Company in Lawrenceburg, Ky. - which adheres exactly to the same "small batch" cooking techniques Wayne developed in his kitchen way back when. Billy Gatton is convinced that there will always be a healthy market for the best of anything, and believe me this is the "Real Stuff."
Today, the little stone house built in 1812 still stands on the edge of the farm's blackberry patch and serves as a reminder that "new fangled ideas" are not always the best, when the quest is for old fashioned, made from scratch goodness.
You may order WindStone Farms Blackberry and Strawberry Jam online - by clicking on the icon below. We know you will taste the love in your first bite - and that you'll want to share the joy with family and friends.
Jones has stated that “we are very fortunate to be accepted by so many consumers who just love our product. We make it in our kitchen and serve it in yours."
"My memories of hot summer days enduring the heat and chiggers to fill the cooking kettles with luscious blackberries are just part of the recipe that goes into each jar of our natural blackberry jam. I think you'll be able to taste them."