Introducing our newest Cookery member, Jillae Langman!
If you visited the Batavia Boardwalk Shops this summer, you undoubtedly found Wanderin' Barefoot Farm's shop. You might have met its energetic, smiling owner, Jillae. Jillae and her husband Wesley Dalmolin are the owners of a six-acre homestead on the Campton Hills and Elgin border that kept the shop stocked with produce and canned items this past year.
"Wanderin' barefoot" brings up childhood memories of summer days for many when feet never saw shoes. People often ask Jillae how she named the farm. There's no deep meaning to the name, just a nod to the lifestyle Jillae has always embraced. A while back, Jillae's personal Instagram account was Dancin' Barefoot. When she began to travel, she changed her handle to Wanderin' Barefoot, and that name stuck!
You might suspect that Jillae grew up on a farm because she's so knowledgeable about farming, food, and canning, but she grew up in Geneva. As a young woman, she moved to Madison, WI., and worked in the music industry (hence Dancin' Barefoot). She never imagined she'd become a homesteader.
However, Jillae studied nutrition in college and worked in the restaurant industry in Colorado for ten years. She didn't like what she learned about the food system in the US. Like many people, Jillae became concerned with what she was eating and decided she could do better. Not one to shy away from hard work, Jillae started growing her own food. She loved gardening and grew so much produce she shared it with friends and realized she could turn farming into a business.
Becoming a Food Entrepreneur
Jillae and Wesley had their first market booth at the Chritskindl Market hosted by Preservation in Geneva in December 2019, not long after Wanderin' Barefoot Farm became a certified business. No surprise that they sold out! Batavia Mainstreet approached her to participate in the inaugural year of the Boardwalk shops. Still, it wasn't until the following year that Jillae felt ready to take the leap into retail. She wrote her first business plan as part of the application process.
The shelves in her Boardwalk shop this past summer contained fresh produce, eggs, herbs, and lemonade, as well as tie-dyed baby shirts and onesies. What Jillae became best known for are her canned items. The first thing she ever canned was pasta sauce. She was hooked! She researched what else she could preserve by canning and discovered "The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving." Like all good cooks, she adjusts the spices to make each recipe her own.
The art of canning took Jillae to produce jams and jellies. Her first year on the homestead, she turned 80 pounds of grapes into jam which quickly sold. Peony jelly was in her shop for a limited time, and it too quickly sold out. She also saw dandelion jelly on Pinterest and made it for private consumption.
Jillae never underestimated how time-consuming canning is, but she didn't realize how popular her canned items would be. Her initial prices were too low because she didn't consider her time. She worried about losing customers if she raised her prices, but her products continued to sell because of the high quality. Throughout the summer and into the fall, Jillae spent Monday through Thursday in her home kitchen producing items under the cottage food laws, then spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday selling those items in the shop. She didn't have time to enjoy her farm and the lifestyle she chose. She worked non-stop with a toddler, which caused her to take a step back and reconsider her future.
Moving to Wholesale
Wandering Barefoot Farm will periodically join the market at Weathered Ways Farm, but Jillae will focus on selling her jellies, jams, and pickles on the website and wholesale going forward. Jillae has a line of floral jellies coming out this spring and has already signed her first wholesale account.
Jillae developed recipes for lilac, violet, and lavender lemon jellies with edible flowers from Fox Flower Farm for the wholesale market. Selling food wholesale requires that the food be produced in a commercial kitchen certified by the state health department. Her recipes were tested at a lab to confirm that the pH was at a reasonable level. PH is a chemical measurement in food. It is a significant factor affecting the appearance, texture, flavor, nutritional value, and safety of foods.
Back to Her Core Values
One of the things Jillae likes most is educating people. She wants to start classes and teach people about growing, preserving, and cooking good fresh food. She recently started the Homesteading in Heels podcast with fellow homesteader Ashley Keller of Weathered Ways Farm.
Jillae wants to spend more time wandering barefoot on the farm with farmhand-in-training, her son Wyatt. She hopes for more time to raise animals aside from laying hens and ducks.
Be sure to follow Wanderin' Barefoot Farm to see where to purchase Jillae's amazing canned items.
Photo credit: April Duda Photography