Written By: Natasha Philpott
Robert Salmons has been making and selling his variety of jam products for the past three years and has big plans for the year ahead
Not all businesses have had an easy-go during the pandemic, but that’s not the case for Robert Salmons, Bradford’s ‘Jam Guy’ who has been struggling just to keep up with demand for his home-made jams and preservatives. As soon as the pandemic hit, he wasn’t even sure he would have a jam season at all, as most of his business is conducted at local farmers’ markets. But he and wife, Deborah were pleasantly surprised with just how busy they have been over the past few months, having their best season yet.
“I am up cooking ’til 3 a.m. sometimes, just to fill an order for the next day” explained Robert. “I’ve had to turn down five vendors this year.” Currently he is set up at three farmers’ markets in the area. His largest client being Marques Farms in Newmarket. This year, the Salmons will have their red wine cranberry jam featured in the Marques Farms Thanksgiving and Christmas produce box programs. “That was our new creation last year,” shared Deborah.
The Salmons normally have samples for customers to try at the market, but not this year due to COVID. They worried that they wouldn’t be able to sell as much without the sampling, but were happy to see customers continuing to purchase without a taste test first. Since ramping up production, the couple has had to rent out the kitchen at the Bradford Legion once a week in order to keep up with demand. The larger facility gives them more space to fulfill all their orders. This month they plan to bring on board their first ever employee, which they are both excited about.
Prior to the pandemic, Robert was working another job and only doing his jams and preserves on the side. Now, he is able to commit all of his time to his passion for jam making. Deborah jokes that, even though her husband is approaching the age in life where it’s time to settle down and semi-retire, Robert is doing the exact opposite, and just revving up his big plans for the company.
It was always a dream for Robert to have his products in stores and restaurants alongside other well-known jam brands like Smucker’s and E.D. Smith. That dream may soon be a reality as he in talks with distributors on how to make that happen. “I have some very big plans,” he said. “I’ve been building it (the business) slowly, building it in stages.” He referenced the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come,” he said. “I built it and now people are coming to me instead of me going to them, but you have to play your cards the right way.”
Other future plans for the business include working with the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to put braille on his jam jars, creating a buttertart and carrotcake icecream with Kawartha Dairy and opening another kitchen in B.C. “I am diversifying the business,” he explained. “I don’t think small. I don’t stop until I hit my goals.” The biggest thing for Robert he says is not worrying about money, and focusing on the dream, “Your goals and what you want.”
The Salmons originally got into jam making when looking for healthy food alternatives without preservatives for their grandsons. They started to garden together, planting their own fresh produce and turning it into homemade jams. “They were part of the process,” said Deborah, noting rhubarb-cinnamon was one of their original favourites. It wasn’t until 2017 the couple decided to make a business out of it, selling the jams at farmers’ markets.
“It’s one of those things that took off,” explained Deborah. At their first market in Georgina, they sold 160 jars of jam in five hours. The couple is committed to providing fresh product, and it is their personal policy not to sell any jarred items after one year. “Affordability is important, flavour is important, but you also have to have that community connection,” said Deborah, noting it’s important for them to give back. They have participated in multiple charities and donated giftbaskets to various events.
Robert uses as much fresh farm produce from local farmers as he can when making his jams, and will supplement with frozen Ontario/Canadian produce if needed to keep up with order demand. For some products like mangoes and pineapple which aren’t grown in Canada, he does need to source from other countries. He is proud of his fresh, preservative-free ingredients used in his all his batches.
“Our first ingredient is produce,” noted Deborah, who is the current taste-tester for the company. The couple may be winding down their busy season, but keep an eye out for new exciting things as they continue to expand in 2021.
To learn more about The Jam Guy, check out their Facebook page here.