Meet at the market: canned with a kick

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Each week we meet up with Katie Hershfelt of Cultivate Events as she chats with farmers, chefs and shoppers at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market.

This week, she noticed some new homemade chili jellies, jams and sauces for sale at the Shepherd Farms stand.

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Some of Shepherd’s new products, including Herbs de Provence (center). Photo: Kathryn Barnes

The impetus for these value-added products actually came out of a problem: very few people were buying Tom’s hot peppers.

“This year we grew a lot of chilies, and I learned in the process that most Santa Barbarans don’t eat them,” said Shepherd. So, he hooked up with a local canner, who turns his excess produce into preserves. “People wouldn’t buy the chilies, but when it comes in the form of a sauce they can use on their food, it’s a whole different thing.”

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Tom Shepherd at his Tuesday market stand in downtown Santa Barbara. Photo: Kathryn Barnes

If Shepherd brings four boxes of chilies to the market and only sells two, he doesn’t have to worry about the rest going bad. “It’s a way for me to not have as much waste, and it’s not perishable.”

Plus, it’s adding another revenue stream for his small farm, tucked away in Nojoqui, just north of Gaviota.

It hasn’t been all easy, though. In addition to the farmers market rules, which requires anything sold at the market to be grown at the stand’s farm (sugar is an exception), there are health department rules on how to sell pre-packaged items. Shepherd had to find someone with a State of California canning license.

“There are people that have professional kitchens, but they don’t have the right license,” he said.

Shepherd just finished planting his Chandler strawberries, and plans to sell a strawberry preserve made with balsamic vinegar later this year.

What to do with Tom’s canned goods:

  • Try it on eggs for a kick
  • Mix with crème fraîche to make a crudité dip
  • Throw it on tacos
  • Marinade meat
  • Pair with cheese and crackers
  • Spread it on a bagel with cream cheese
  • Put a dollop on leftover turkey

To check out all our past farmers market segments, head to