First Posted: 10/14/2014
What do hot wing sauce, pepper jerky and salad dressing have in common?
No, really. Just ask Eric and Deanne Garver, of Conifer Corner in Factoryville, who brought home two blue ribbons from this year’s Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair — one for their apple pie jam and the other for their raspberry hot wing sauce.
The couple, both of whom are scientists with Ph.D.s, left the corporate world several years ago, moving their family from the Philadelphia area to Factoryville. They previously visited the town only on weekends to camp, fish and plant trees, until their children began asking, “Why can’t we stay up here all the time?”
“Eric and I talked about it,” Deanne Garver said. “And we asked, ‘Well, why can’t we stay up here?’”
Their children are Daniel, now 18, a freshman in mechanical engineering at The University of North Carolina; Katrina, 15, a sophomore at Scranton Preparatory School; and Evan, 12, a seventh-grade student at Lackawanna Trail.
Eric previously worked in the field of pre-clinical drug discovery and his wife worked as a drug development scientist. He now devotes full-time hours to their farming and landscaping business and she is a full-time chemistry professor at Marywood University. The entire family helps on the farm, where they grow Christmas trees and eight varieties of raspberries.
They also installed an industrial kitchen in their basement where they make 15 flavors of jams, raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing, the award-winning raspberry hot wing sauce, raspberry pepper jerky, soft pretzels and more.
Several local and regional restaurants and businesses use and sell Conifer Corner products, including Gin’s Tavern, Factoryville; Lil’s Bar and Grill, Lake Winola; Carm’s Pizza House, Tunkhannock; Hillside Farms, Shavertown and Chinchilla Variety Store, Clarks Summit. The couple also sets up a stand at several farmers’ markets, festivals and craft fairs and offers products for sale on the honor system from a small barn shop on their property.
And it all started with the planting of Christmas trees in 2003. The couple sold their first trees in 2009, followed by the addition of the first greenhouse for raspberries in 2011 and the barn in 2012. They look forward to even more expansion in the future, as they experiment with new products and ideas.
“A biologist and a chemist decided to grow and cook,” Deannesaid, summing up their story, “and that’s how all of this happened.”
What she enjoys most about the business is meeting new people and watching families grow as the same customers return each year. She added both she and her husband enjoy the scientific aspects of farming and developing the perfect combinations of ingredients for their products through experimentation.
For Eric, one of the best parts is what he calls “the OMG factor.”
“It’s when someone tries your product,” he said, “and they look at you and say, ‘Oh my god, that is awesome.’”
Neither pretends the work is easy, especially on a hot summer day when there are raspberries to be picked in a greenhouse in which the temperature is 10 degrees warmer than the outdoors, or on a cold winter morning when there are wreathes to be made standing in a barn ankle deep in ice water. But they also wouldn’t trade it.
“Some days, it’s just plain hard work,” Deanne said. “But it’s fun, too.”
Conifer Corner will open the barn shop for the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving. Visitors can walk through the Christmas tree field and pick out their own tree to chop down or choose one from a selection all ready to go. In addition to year-round products, the barn will be filled with decorative wreathes, gift items made by local artisans, hot chocolate and baked goods.
The Garvers are excited for the upcoming season and look forward to “seeing old friends and meeting new ones.”