By Carol Cowan
When O.H. “Pete” and Averil Peters get to talking about their Woodsgift Farm jams and jellies, baking mixes and handcrafted items, their passion and joy are evident. A lot of hard work goes into making, showing and selling their wares, which include a long list of food products, in addition to hats, walking sticks, knives, jewelry boxes and more. But hard work apparently agrees with the couple, whose faith and positivity keep them going strong at 83 and 79 years old, respectively.
“With the Lord’s leading, you can do a lot of different things, and it behooves you to get with it and do it – and to have a lot of fun at it! And we do,” Averil says.
She and Pete were led into jam and jelly making when they branched out from their hog farming operation in West Tennessee into you-pick blueberries.
Jams, Jellies and Memories
“In 1991, the crop was over 5,000 pounds, and we didn’t know how to market all those blueberries,” Averil recalls. “We were getting more berries than we could handle. So we decided to go into commercial sales of just blueberry jam and jelly. But while we were doing this, people asked for other flavors. So we said, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that.’ Our first brochure offered 26 flavors, and we thought, ‘Wow, we are really here.’ Today, we have about 130 items that we sell.”
“Not all jams and jellies, though,” interjects Pete. “We have pancake mixes and cookie mixes, too.”
They also sell biscuit and scone mixes, a variety of fruit butters and curds, ice cream and pancake toppings, and sugar-free versions of many of their products. They call their homemade goodies “memory foods” – reminiscent of a time when made-from-scratch condiments and treats were the norm in many a kitchen.
In 1994, they sold their farm in West Tennessee and bought the place they now call home – a 3.25-acre parcel between Greeneville and Kingsport – in order to be close to their children and grandchildren.
“We’ve been here 20 years now, and we love it,” Averil says.
The couple, who are members of the Greene County Farm Bureau, grow gooseberries, currants, elderberries, apples and pawpaws (their seasonal pawpaw butter is a top seller) on their home place.
“We also try to buy local products as best we can at the time they’re in season,” Pete says. “We buy a surplus and store it in the deep freeze until we need it.”
They have 11 freezers, as well as a walk-in cooler and two refrigerators, in the “jam house” they had custom built for the production of their Woodsgift Farm jams and jellies.
Working Together Works
As to the division of labor in the jam house kitchen, Averil is in charge of recipe development and cooking; Pete puts the lids and labels on the jars and handles the shipping and other heavy work.
“She’s the cook, and I’m the bottle capper,” he says with a laugh.
The system functions quite well. In fact, the couple has worked together at one thing or another throughout their enduring marriage.
“For 56 years, we’ve been working together, and it just gets better all the time,” Averil says. “He’s my hero, and I’m his lady – isn’t that wonderful?”
Indeed it is, as are the beautiful handcrafted items the two make. Averil designs and sews hats and bonnets, both plain and fancy, in sizes from infant to adult. “I’m working on my 19th design now,” she says. “Sewing is a passion for me. And the hats sell very well.”
Pete makes hand-carved crosses, musical jewelry boxes, hardwood canes and walking sticks – also from plain to fancy – and fixed-blade hunting knives with carved wooden handles and handmade leather sheaths.
“I make the blades out of roto-tiller tines,” he says. “They’re real tough, high-carbon steel. I have no formal training; I just picked it up on my own. It’s just something I saw and thought I could do. I’ll try about anything.”
They market their Woodsgift Farm products at about 20 craft shows and festivals each year, mainly in East Tennessee, western North Carolina and southern Virginia. Products are also available at select retailers, on-site at Woodsgift Farm and via mail order.
Get the Gifts
13705 Horton Highway
Greeneville, TN 37745
Woodsgift Farm’s mailing address is Greeneville; however, its physical location is actually closer to Kingsport – three miles north of Interstate 81 at Exit 44. Part of the Appalachian Quilt Trail, its quilt square – hanging on the jam house and bearing the pattern “Bay Leaf” – can be seen from the road.
Call ahead or email if you plan to visit or to order by mail. Woodsgift Farm can ship gift items directly to recipients and include a personalized gift message. No sales are conducted on Sundays, either on site or at shows.