Updated: Jan 19
Chaplin doesn’t have many farms in the little town, but one of the farms it does boast of is bringing a creative new twist to her business.
KDCROP Farms (the K and D standing for Kelly and her husband Derrick) is your typical farm in that it offers a CSA, brings fresh veggies and eggs to farmers markets, and has a little farm stand set up by the edge of the road, but Kelly is expanding. All the excess that she grows is transformed into jams, relishes, pickles, and whatever other jarred product she can come up with.
You might be surprised to learn that this all started in Tanzania. After Kelly graduated from UConn she was recruited to join the Peace Corps and was placed in Tanzania as an environmental volunteer working in animal husbandry. In the little town where she was located (a far cry from her home in suburbia) they had to be self-sufficient: no electricity and running water. Mail was two hours away by bike, and the nearest computer was a 7 hour bus ride. So naturally, there was plenty of farming to inspire Kelly- when she would come back stateside, she would start a farm.
Fast forward to 2005 and Kelly finally was making her dream come true. With her then fiancé (and eventually husband) helping her, they started experimenting with growing a couple of crops and selling them at another farm - Old Maid's Farm in Glastonbury. Within a year, they had gotten married, started growing on a 1 acre rented field, and joined the Storrs Farmers' Market. Whatever they couldn’t sell, Kelly started cooking up and jarring, to sell at the market and for her own use. There was too much kohlrabi, so she made pickles. They had a bumper habanero crop, so a spicy cranberry jelly was made. The Chinese cabbage was prolific, so she made kimchi.
Eventually Kelly was able to acquire her plot of land in Chaplin and she set to work- a large greenhouse was set up. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries were planted that would eventually become jam. She started connecting with other farmers to supplement what she was growing so that things like her Kernel Corny’s relish would be made 100% from CT farms. She connected with a commercial kitchen so she could scale up the products. People started to come back to her again and again and say that her jam or pickle recipe reminded them of what their grandmother used to make, or that hers was the only relish they liked.
And at her simple roadside stand, where she distributes her CSA and sells products, you wouldn’t imagine that tucked beyond there are hundreds of plants happily thriving. You wouldn’t expect this humble stand to be the source of cranbanero jam that is the secret kick in the Farmer’s Cow Calfe & Creamery Turkey melt. Or that all her excess is processed into thousands of jars of products that get sold at 4 other farmstands and the Willimantic Food Cooperative. You wouldn’t expect the flavor of something jarred to still taste so fresh. But Kelly does it. She is making it easy and delicious to eat your local fruits and veggies, not just in peak harvest season, but even in the dead of winter- when you can open one of her jars and be transported to the flavor of summer.