Today we’d like to introduce you to Dennis and Karen Knutson.
Dennis and Karen, please share your story with us.
Karen and I started Knutson’s Country Harvest in the early 1990s with the help of our parents. In 1994 my father, Robert Knutson and I built our house on the original 11 acre site. Karen’s father, Ray Hodge, was instrumental in the starting of the orchard in 1996 and many of the original recipes for the Jams, Pickles and Pies we still make today. We started with some apple and peach trees and a few products doing local farmers markets and pitching a small tent by the road in front of our house. As they grew, our 3 sons, Nathan, Noah and Neal all joined in to help us build this over the years.
After a few years we converted a small part of our shed to be our store area. We soon outgrew that and in 2007 we had our current store built which included a commercial kitchen, and started our Wholesale and Restaurant Supply business. We invite you to visit Jam and Jelly Café in Darien or Woodridge and Prasino in LaGrange. We have supplied these and others restaurants since they opened almost 10 years ago.
Please tells us about Knutsons Country Harvest.
Knutsons Country Harvest is about 60 miles Southwest of Chicago in Newark, Il, and has 3 main parts to the business:
A U-Pick orchard with Apples, Peaches, Pears, Blueberries, Blackberries, Aronia Berries, and more available when in season.
A Wholesale and Restaurant Supply business where we provide our locally made products to stores, markets, and restaurants in the Chicagoland and Illinois area.
Hydroponic system and part sales and consulting.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
At the time I bought the original 11 acres, it did not come with a building permit. I had to do research at the tax office to prove there was a permit available in order to build our house.
When running businesses based on agriculture and restaurant supply, there are always challenges.
Things like weather, pests, diseases, weeds, supply/demand of products and finding good help just to name a few. This year the Japanese Beetles were a challenge. These are a dime sized dark beetle that eats all of the leaves and/or the fruit itself from the fruit trees and bushes.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Knutson’s Country Harvest – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Our business specializes in 4 main areas that we feel set up apart.
Produce locally made products with the finest ingredients and that do not contain any artificial colors or preservatives
Grow healthy crops like Aronia Berries that are higher in Antioxidants than many of the Superfoods that are shipped in from far away.
Provide superior customer service of the restaurants, stores, and markets that we supply.
Making products that you cannot find elsewhere. SugarFree Jams and Pies made with Stevia, Unique flavors combinations like Aronia-Blueberry, Blueberry-Peach and 4-Berry Jams and Pies.
Over the years we have expanded our retail and wholesale products lines into Salsas, Honey BBQ Sauces, and making pie squares that we supply for weddings and other events. Our U-Pick orchard has been expanded with more trees, berries bushes and hydroponics growing systems. We have been using various forms of hydroponics since 2005. I have had the privilege to take short mission trips to Haiti and Guatemala several times to take hydroponic systems and teach others how to use it for schools and orphanages.
Our customers and listening to them makes our success. Shortly after we started making Jam, a number of customers asked us for Pepper Jam, we still didn’t make it for a while.
After we started making them and tried them, now we make 3 different varieties. A Green Pepper Jam, Hot Pepper (all Jalapeno) and what we call Zippy Red Raspberry which is a mix of Jalapeno and Red Raspberry. It is a personal favorite of mine that I use on as a meat sauce, on eggs, in Chili, and much more. Another customer inspired flavor is our Cherry-Peach Jam and Pies. Another essential to running a business is to keep learning. For the other business owners/managers I would recommend seeking out some good resources, such as the EntreLeadership podcast. This addresses all aspects of starting and running a business.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
This will be a transition year for us, as we have decided to sell all of Knutsons Country harvest. Our 3 sons are now all out of school and have other paths in front of them and my job as a contract telecommunications engineer has me transferring to Austin, TX.
We plan to take our time with the goal of finding new owners that will continue what has been started and expand it. We are very proud of where this company is now all on a part-time basis, and we know there is much more room to grow with this foundation in place.
We want to express a huge thank you to all of our customers from all of the Chicagoland area over the last 20+ years. It has been nice meeting and talking with you.
- Address: 13550 Townhouse Rd.,
Newark, Il 60541
- Website: Knutsonsharvest.com
- Phone: 815 557 4629
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Knutson’s Country Harvest