It’s only September, but Lori Heal is already thinking of a new jam she can create for Christmas.
“I love blending and mixing,” she said. “I keep adding, and I keep mixing.”
She has farmed berries in Arroyo Grande for three decades. And as her operation grew, so too did the amount of berries she produced.
“I started to have extra fruit, and I thought, ‘Hmmm — what could I do with this?'”
Mama’s Preserves currently offers 22 varieties of jams, all made from the crops grown at 2 Peas in a Pod — the farm Heal operates with her husband and two of her sons. Heal sells the preserves at farmers’ markets locally and as far away as Hollywood and Santa Monica. While customers might use the preserves on toast or in yogurt, chefs have used them in glazes for meat.
Some of the flavor ideas have come from customers.
“They get such a kick out of it when I have a new flavor, and it was their idea,” Heal said.
Farming has been a part of Heal’s family at least since her great-grandfather, she said. The family originally farmed in Cayucos, but eventually the farm moved to Arroyo Grande, where Heal’s father operates a 720-acre cattle ranch. Most of 2 Peas in a Pod is located on a roughly 20-acre patch there, though there is also a small berry forest at the Heal house nearby.
The farm includes berries, baby corn, brussels sprouts and the latest edition, hops.
Summer is a time for picking berries, while the fall and winter entail pruning plants by hand. Meanwhile, Heal spends considerable time picking, making jams and working farmers’ markets. While she loves farming, her work can entail long hours — for the Santa Monica market, she has to leave as early as 3 a.m.
“Farming for us is 24/7,” Heal said.
Find Heal’s berries, preserves and more at the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market, a member of the SLO County Farmers’ Market Association, Thursdays, beginning at 6:10 p.m.