“This is why I encourage other vendors to come down here,” says Monica Pluim of Jungle Beans Coffee as customers look over her selection of coffees and hot cocoas. “You get to meet so many people. The word of mouth down here is huge.” Monica’s business has existed as a wholesale coffee supplier for several years, and has grown into the fundraising space as well. Jungle Beans is small, but growing, and Monica also stays busy as a stay-at-home mom and a realtor. Now, she’s bringing their locally-roasted coffee and locally-made hot cocoa straight to consumers for the first time at the farmers’ market.
This is the public’s first chance to buy Jungle Beans’ coffee directly from Monica Pluim and her family.
“We get every kind of bean you can get,” Monica says. “We do Kenya, we do Colombia, we do Brazil, we do Guatemala, Sumatra, Ethiopia… so it’s rare to find a company that carries that whole array of beans. And we roast them here locally, specially roasted, and it’s all 100% Arabica, top quality.” Their beans are grown by farmers who are paid above fair-trade standards. Jungle Beans receives the raw beans, then custom roasts them twenty-five pounds at a time. Monica adds, “We have over forty-five different blends, varieties, and flavors. We always have our two top-selling ones, but we are hoping to get up to sixty different products this year.”
The whole business is just two people, Monica explains: “It’s me and my father, Mark Larsen. He’s my roaster. And he’s been trained; he’s had months of training!” With their industrial Diedrich coffee roaster, they are able to precisely control the time and temperature of the roast to bring out the best flavors of each bean. After roasting, they bag, label and box their coffee, using packaging from local companies as much as possible.
One of Mark Larsen’s jobs is to clean the roaster regularly– a process that takes several hours.
Then the coffee goes out to small businesses around the region. “We supply a lot of the Cappuccino Cabins in town, and we have quite a few customers in Montana,” Monica mentions as examples. Not many other companies operate quite like Jungle Beans. While other wholesale coffee companies offer coffee equipment and a line of standard coffees, that’s not Monica’s goal. “My goal is to be– not small– but to always be a specialty roaster,” she says, explaining how a restaurant can create its own custom blend that is served nowhere else and that is roasted to the restaurant’s exact specifications every time.
“The farmers’ market is a way for us to meet people and let them know that we are here.” Monica remarks. She especially hopes to connect with farmers’ market customers who might want to use Jungle Beans’ coffee and hot cocoa as a fundraiser for their group. The fundraising part of the business is Monica’s favorite, even though she hands over almost all of the profits to the schools and groups who do her fundraisers. She loves to see the success groups have by selling something that many people are buying anyway and that is of very high quality. Groups get to keep up to $5.40 of profit for each bag of coffee or hot cocoa they sell.
Groups can sell Jungle Beans’ most popular flavors as a fundraiser.
Some fundraising groups choose to have their very own labels put on each bag, which adds a personal touch. Monica has also set up a system on the Jungle Beans’ website for organizations to get continued fundraising orders throughout the year. “When I run out of Girl Scout Cookies, I want more, but you can’t get any more until they come back to your door. So this way people can keep getting coffee all year. Nothing against Girl Scout cookies– they’re great!”
O’Gorman’s high school choir is one local group who has been using Jungle Beans as a fundraiser for four years now. It’s been very successful and it has allowed the choir to go on tour. Not all fundraising groups have been local, though. “We have tons of schools in more hurting states like California and Texas want to do our fundraiser,” Monica explains. She loves to see her business helping to build playgrounds and fill libraries in underfunded districts. “When they hit their goal, it’s awesome!”
Although Monica stays busy with her two businesses, she enjoys the flexibility in each and the time she gets to spend with her children.
Some young friends enjoying their time at the Jungle Beans booth.
If you follow The Prairie Farmers’ Market on Facebook, you may have already heard about these upcoming events. We’re so excited to be planning a Wellness Festival, a Safety Day, and a Customer Appreciation Day. If you’re a regular customer at our markets, you won’t miss these events, because they all take place during our regular Saturday hours.
August 22: Wellness Festival
The Wellness Festival is your chance to come and talk to health and wellness professionals from around Sioux Falls. Get your questions answered (no appointment necessary!), learn about holistic therapies, practice some exercises, and find out who can help you with your health needs.
We already have about ten health and wellness professionals signed up to participate, but if you know other excellent health professionals in the area, be sure to let them know about this opportunity! There is no charge to participate; professionals just need to register with us, follow market rules, and provide their own tables and canopy if desired.
August 29: Safety Day
This will be a fun family event for kids to learn about safety. The police and firefighters of Sioux Falls will be there to teach and interact with kids. We’d also like to include experts in safety around water, safety with dogs, safety on the farm, and more, so let us know if you have a safety expertise!
September 19: Customer Appreciation Day
We are so grateful for our customers! Our vendors love to talk with each of you and serve you on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and we want to have a special day to celebrate you. There will be food, games, and giveaways!
RSVP now with these Facebook events so you can keep an eye out for more details as we get closer to these events.
These radishes have zip!
“These got a little zip to them,” Bill Smith explains to a customer who is looking over the selection of radishes at the Rosemont Valley Farm booth. A little zip is just what the customer is looking for, so Bill helps her to complete the purchase. Connecting the right products to the right customers is what brings a member of the Smith family to The Prairie Farmers’ Market every Saturday.
The Smith family has been farming outside of Montrose, South Dakota for decades. “It hasn’t always been our farm, but we’ve been there most of our lives,” Bill Smith says. He and two of his sons farm together. Most of their land is used to raise cattle. They’ve always had a vegetable garden for themselves, but this is the first year that they’ve sold vegetables directly to consumers. “My son Adam is the one who is most interested in seeing if we can make this go,” Bill explains. Adding variety to their family farm has been a challenge and an adventure.
“This is a little patch by the farm. Easy access to water,” Bill explains. “We had hoop buildings that we raised calves in, you know, and I just put the clear plastic on them instead of the opaque, so then we had a place to start vegetables early.”
The tricky part has been “having what the people want. Like a few weeks ago everyone was asking for carrots, and I didn’t have very many. Now I have lots of carrots but people aren’t buying them. So it’s all about matching what you grow and when to what you’re going to sell here.”
Planning ahead to match the selection of vegetables to customer demand is a challenge.
One thing is clear: many customers at The Prairie Farmers’ Market want vegetables produced according to organic principles. Bill and his sons don’t use synthetic pesticides or herbicides to grow their vegetables. “I did use an organic-approved spray for cabbage,” Bill says, speaking about the online research he’s done to find effective organic methods. Growing without conventional chemicals requires more research and weeding, but it’s something the Smith family and the Smiths’ customers value.
The Smiths also incorporate healthy practices in their cattle operation and other crops, but they aren’t currently certified organic. “We’re set so we could go organic, with the rotation that we do. I think we could do it, but you’ve got to have the market for it,” Bill Smith says. He emphasizes the influence that consumers and their buying habits have on farming decisions.
While what Bill grows is strongly influenced by what customers are looking for, he also enjoys the vegetables himself. “I don’t really have a favorite. I like most things and there’s nothing here I don’t eat. I guess I like the variety!”
Bill Smith enjoys the fresh vegetables just as much as his customers do.