Vikki Derksen (pictured right) and Kylie Wasiuta (pictured left) have found themselves in more than a bit of a jam, and in summer months it has them spread pretty thin, but the proprietors of Forever Prairie wouldn’t have it any other way.
From Wednesday to Saturday they’re at markets selling their jams, jellies, conserves, marmalades, fruit-based sauces and at this time of year relishes, to folks who enjoy made in Manitoba food, and the girls’ personal charm.
“We have 131 flavours with us today,” Derksen says at the Selkirk Port Market, held every Wednesday in August at the D.O.G Days of Summer at Selkirk Waterfront.
“We have close to 200 in our repertoire but we cycle through as fruit is available, things are in season, we have time to make or things sell out.”
Homegrown MB business supporting MB businesses
Forever Prairie began five years ago, took a two-year hiatus and then Derksen joined Wasiuta this year, united in their passion for home grown and a desire to support the Manitoba economy.
They grow their own fruit in Springfield and that’s their first choice for ingredients in their jams.
“Looking for fruits, Step 1 is ‘can we grow it ourselves?’ Anything we can grow ourselves or our family members can grow, we love,” Derksen says.
“Step 2 is Manitoba U-Picks, if it’s grown in Manitoba we’ll support another small family business, a lot of family farms. Portage la Prairie is where we do a lot of it, but wherever in Manitoba.
“After that we have a connection to BC fruit trucks, if we can get Canadian fruit, we make Canadian fruit.”
There’s times they simply have to go to the grocery store, but not until all other options are exhausted.
And when they have to buy, Derksen says they’re often rescuing fruit from a disastrous fate – the garbage can.
“A lot of it is fruit that would otherwise be thrown out, it’s maybe last week’s peaches. It’s still good for jam, so we’re saving a lot of fruit from being thrown out,” she says.
Anyone who’s every made their own jam knows there’s some work involved and neither Derksen nor Wasiuta shy away from hard work.
They’re involved in the production line from planting to selling.
“From start to finish, a lot of our fruits are locally grown on our farm, so the harvesting, the picking, the cleaning of the fruits, turning it into jam, we do it all ourselves,” Wasiuta says.
“Mondays and Tuesdays are spent picking fruit and making our jams and getting our inventory back up and Wednesdays to Saturdays we have markets and then Sundays are our only days off.”
“It’s full-time plus, like 16 hours a day, six days a week, we eat, sleep, breathe jam,” Derksen laughed.
There’s a line inspired by the girls’ favourite desserts and a liqueur line inspired by their favourite drinks. When it’s suggested those were created after perhaps a few too many margaritas, there’s a quick denial.
“There’s a lot of math in jam, you can’t do it drunk,” Derksen laughed.
They’re constantly thinking of new ways to use their jams, and say it’s good to be adventurous and see where your jam lands.
“Jam’s great for toast, but it’s more than just toast,” Wasiuta says.
“We always recommend pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or turn them into salad dressings. Our savouries are great over meats and cheeses.”
Winter gives the Forever Prairie girls a bit of a break, but their freezers are stocked so they can keep going year round, and they hit up craft sales almost every weekend during the frozen season.
“Winter is slower obviously, we’re not going all week long so it gives us a chance to have a little bit more of a life,” Wasiuta laughed.
Besides their jams and jellies, they also have country crafts and handcrafted cat and dog treats. And if you help them reduce and reuse by bringing your jar back, they’ll knock the price of your next purchase down for you.
Come see Forever Prairie at the Selkirk Port Market, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday in August at the D.O.G Days of Summer. There’s live entertainment from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and all kinds of vendors. There are also food trucks, so come down, have lunch and do a little local shopping.