LaSandra and Luap McKeever of McKeever Mountain Farms grow organic produce on 20 acres between Jacket and Powell.
LaSandra said they grow organic produce, including peaches and plums. Also, this is their first year to raise honeybees.
"We don't use any pesticides on our property because we don't want to harm the bees or our customers," she said.
She said they started with a good-sized garden to see what would grow in the soil. The peppers produced abundantly, so she decided to make some ghost pepper jelly.
"The demand for ghost pepper jelly took off," she said. They offer their products online, through Facebook, and at the Powell and Pineville farmers markets during the season. Some jellies can be found at the historic courthouse museum in Pineville. They sell their produce and a variety of jellies, as well as special-order desserts. For holidays LaSandra makes cedar and lavender wreaths. The property is covered in cedar, and she grows lavender, she said.
One side of their mountain has huckleberries, which are wild blueberries, and the other side has blackberries, dewberries and gooseberries, she said. These are all wild, native berries from which she makes jellies.
She also works with wild edible flowers. Dandelion jelly tastes like honey, she said. Wild honeysuckle is their best-selling floral. She makes it into jelly as well.
LaSandra makes an organic salsa and a jalapeño and hot pepper relish. She tries to use as much produce as she can so nothing is wasted.
She earned first, second and third place in the jelly competition at Jane Days. First place was her white peach habanero jelly. Second place was her pumpkin pie jam, and third place was her raspberry jalapeño jelly.
Three times a month during the season, she is at farmers markets selling their goods. In addition to her work in the garden, she works full time.
She explained how she got started in this business.
"We had all this land. I wanted a personal garden. The garden was a little too big for personal use, so I started making jellies. People tried them and said I needed to sell them," she said. "I just try to make something you can't get at a local retailer and that's local and native to our community. I wanted to offer something that doesn't have preservatives or chemicals."
She makes her own pesticide out of peppers, onions and garlic, she added.
"It's very therapeutic for me," she said. "I enjoy all of it. I enjoy doing it all by hand. Pulling at the weeds, working in the dirt. I take a lot of pride in my work and offering our produce and knowing it's not going to hurt anybody. I like to work in the dirt and I like to teach my grandkids about causing no harm."General News on 01/02/2020