MOORHEAD - When the going gets tough, the tough get to canning and baking.
Kreps Family Farm has increased its presence at Moorhead’s Center Mall, and is now selling homemade jams, jellies, breads and pickled produce five days a week at a food court kiosk.
Owners Mary Jane and Mathew Kreps say that not driving school buses since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has them now focusing on their cottage food business.
“When you have to diversify, you do. In this day and age, a lot of people may have to modify their career path,” Mary Jane Kreps said Wednesday, June 17. “We have been fairly successful, even in this less-than-stellar business atmosphere.”
It was five years ago, with the passage of Minnesota’s Cottage Food Law, that the couple saw a business opportunity. That law allows people to sell foods made in a home kitchen, including baked and canned goods.
Kreps Family Farm products have since grown increasingly popular thanks to hustle that puts them at farmers markets, street fairs, Pride of Dakota shows, online and at the mall, where Mary Jane’s generous loaves of banana bread, German nut bread, jellies, picante sauce, salsa and Bloody Mary mix sell well.
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They have a 2-acre garden that produces the vegetables they use. And 2 1/2 years ago, the couple set up a commercial kitchen for the business in West Fargo.
“Nothing I make is in large batches. It’s all small batches like you would make at home,” Mary Jane said.
Mary Jane arrived in Minnesota 20 years ago. Previously, she had worked in a deli and bakery in Jeffersonville, Vt., and as a sous chef in a French restaurant.
For a time, the couple farmed row crops between Georgetown and Felton, Mathew said. They later shifted to selling goods at farmers markets. In addition to selling baked and canned products, they will sometimes sell eggs, chicken and pork, Mathew said.
For years, they've also driven children to and from school for Richards Transportation Service.
The recipes Mary Jane uses have been handed down from her grandmother, to mother to daughter. She has since taught her sons - ages 18, 16 and 10 - how to become fair prize-winning canners and bakers.
“Those guys can make anything I can make,” she said. “It’s very much a family business.”
Eighty percent of their sales are canned goods, and 20% are for breads and cookies, she said.
"We actually have a very nice following of people who are looking for good locally sourced food,” Mary Jane said.
Kreps Family Farm is at the mall 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They can be found on Facebook and their website is krepsfamilyfarm.com.