Gingin grandmother Sylvia Kelly loves to whip up a batch of jam in her kitchen – but that’s where the stereotype ends! Sylvia is a jam-making powerhouse and a testament to self-sufficiency in the face of adversity.
Sylvia is the creator of Gingin Jam, whose preserves are produced using local fruit combined with years of generational experience. The jams are hugely popular with her customers, the taste often evoking feelings of nostalgia from their own childhood. “People have commented that, ‘You can taste the love in your jam’,” says Sylvia.
Gingin Jam was born 25-years ago after the death of Sylvia’s husband Bernie.
“I thought, ‘What on earth am I going to do with no income?’ I decided I’ll just have to look to old skills! I’ve been making jam since I was a kid, so I better just try to do that,” she says. “I grew up in a farm in Wagin and as soon as I could hold a knife, I was cutting up fruit for jam.”
Gingin Jam has over eighty varieties of jam on offer, from the traditional fruits you would expect to find in a jar, to innovative flavours utilising bush foods such as rosella and rieberry.
“I source my fruit from all local orchards and from my own. I get fruit straight off the tree and process it immediately – either directly into jam or prepped for the freezer for later use. There is at least one type of fruit ripening in each month of the year, so it is a year-round production.”
Sylvia is keeping a detailed record of the nuances of prepping the different batches of jam – the kind of knowledge that can only be acquired from hundreds of hours stirring the pot.
Gingin Jam was sold in over 50 outlets at the height of production, from Shark Bay to Margaret River and even three outlets in Queensland – something she achieved not with an extensive marketing campaign, or social media, but through traditional word of mouth.
“I have not advertised the business or promoted if after the first few years. People have sought me out and asked to carry my product,” Sylvia explains.
Along with the burgeoning jam business, Sylvia’s skills as a florist are also in demand and at one stage, she was the recommended wedding and event florist at Belvoir Homestead in the Swan Valley. She also runs a bed and breakfast in Gingin and is a busy volunteer in the community, assisting those in need with transport to medical facilities.
Sylvia is clearly a people-person by nature and this is a characteristic she has been able to transfer to her business.
“People matter more than money to me. My ethos has always been to let ordinary people have quality jam at an affordable price. I didn’t want only rich people to have good jam. It has been an exciting venture with much satisfaction and learning.”
Sylvia is taking a well-deserved break for June and July — “I asked the boss and she said I could have long service leave!” she laughs.
You can taste the sweet sensation of Gingin Jams for yourself by purchasing them from the following locations: Bindoon IGA, CU@Park, Gingin IGA X-Press, Gingin Community Resource Centre, Gingin Railway Station, West Coast Honey, Golden Grove in Chittering, and the Windmill Roadhouse on Brand Highway, Regans Ford. You can also find it online at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store.