A little over two years ago, O-Town Kitchen produced its first jars of handcrafted preserves — 11 jars of jelly made from cans of pineapple donated by a second-hand grocery store.
Since then, the benefit corporation, whose goal is to impact the community and support families, has produced hundreds of jars of jellies and jams and has employed half a dozen women who were facing homelessness and other crisis situations.
Isaac Farley’s inspiration for creating 0-Town Kitchen came from experiences he had growing up. When he was a young boy, his family was homeless at three different times. When he got a little older, he started volunteering at his church’s soup kitchen in an effort to help families who suffer from the same economic struggles he had.
While working at the soup kitchen, he became aware that much of the donated food went to waste because it could not be used up fast enough. From that realization came the idea that perhaps there was a way to take some of that unused food and give it a longer shelf life.
Along with Nestor Robles, Farley received help from his professors at Weber State University. One professor put Farley and Robles in touch with the YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden. Employing women from the crisis center to help make the jam, 0-Town Kitchen was born.
“We started selling it at the farmer’s market, and people liked it,” Farley said.
He then contacted owners of retail locations in Ogden to see if they were willing to sell O-Town Kitchens products there. The first two who began carrying the products were Grounds for Coffee and Wisebird Bookery, both on Harrison Boulevard.
“What really helped us grow was when Nestor and I got an investment from the entrepreneurship program at Weber State University,” Farley commented. With that financial backing, they were able to develop an online presence, sell at farmers’ markets and get their products in more retail shops.
Now, O-Town Kitchen produces about 100 jars of preserves a day, employing women in crisis and transitional situations to help make the products. Farley pays the women using money earned from selling the preserves. The jams and jellies are produced at the kitchen at Javier’s Mexican Restaurant on 29th Street in Ogden. The restaurant closes each day at 2 p.m. and allows O-Town to use its facilities after business hours.
“Our real goal is bridging the gap between unemployment to full-time employment situations,” he says.
Typically women work for O-Town Kitchen for about three months, with some working up to a year and others working there for just a couple of weeks.
Sierra Farley, who also happens to be Isaac’s sister, is a current employee. She recently completed chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with lymphoma at the beginning of 2017. When she was going through treatment, she was laid off from her job. She has a one-year-old son.
“He (Isaac) hired me here so I could take care of my son,” Sierra said, noting that she enjoys the work and likes learning to make the different jams.
On a recent afternoon, the brother and sister team were working together, preparing mixed berry lavender jam, which will be sold at the Snowberry Inn Bed and Breakfast in Eden. O-Town Kitchen contracts with the inn to receive surplus berries and make jam, which is then sold at the inn.
Another partnership that has been a boon to O-Town Kitchen is with Green Urban Lunch Box, which is based in Salt Lake City. One of their programs is to put gardens in the backyards of senior citizens who might not be able plant and care for the gardens themselves. Volunteers then come and help with gardening.
One-third of the harvest is kept by the homeowner; one-third by the volunteers and one-third is given to hunger relief.
“Typically the homeowner and volunteer don’t take their full third, and that creates a surplus. We take the excess produce and make products.”
In turn, Green Urban Lunch Box gets a portion of the sales.
O-Town Kitchen currently offers about eight different preserve flavors.
“As fruit comes in season, we start making more of that,” Farley says.
He also mentioned that he gets a lot of satisfaction from the work he does with 0-Town Kitchen.
“This whole thing has been such a positive experience that it’s hard to pick out just one thing that’s been the most rewarding. Being out there and being involved in the community is rewarding. I wanted this to be about community.”