Josey's Goods Brings Culture, Quality Back To Local Foods

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Pulling from their own cabinets, Gene and Lisa Josey headed to the Lafayette Jockey Lot for their first try at selling homemade canned goods.

A pillar vendor at the Lafayette Farmers Market, Josey’s Goods started out of necessity. Mid-2017, Gene and Lisa Josey were both unemployed, Lisa recovering from surgery and Gene healing from a car accident.

“So it was like, we’re both out of work. And what do we do?” Lisa said.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Gene said.

After a few weeks of making enough for rent at the Jockey Lot, the couple expanded to the Breaux Bridge city-wide garage sale. That’s when the business took off, becoming a full-time job.

Since then Josey’s Goods can be found in various stores across Acadiana — Drug Emporium carries their products, Handy Stop has an entire rack dedicated to Josey’s items, Beausoleil Books’ Whisper Room uses their pepper jelly for cocktails.

But their home base is the Farmer’s Market.

GROWING CAJUN

Josey’s Goods uses locally sourced produce grown by small farmers. They buy locally for two main reasons: flavor and quality.

“Just being in the trenches, seeing how hard they work, it’s just a different perspective now,” Lisa said. “Because we just go to the grocery store, right, when you want something. But when you want something fresh, you have to learn the seasons, you have to know when it’s growing, you have to hope for good weather. So it’s just being in the trenches, just makes it even more the right decision.”

Another factor in choosing small, local farms is the type of care they have for the soil, making sure it’s healthy to “provide nutrient-dense foods.”

“It’s not just good-tasting food. It’s actually nutritious,” Lisa said.

In the beginning, the couple bought their fruit from a chain store. Wanting to try something local, they picked blueberries from a u-pick farm.

“The difference in the quality and the taste that really was like ‘Okay, we can’t do that.’ So that’s what really made us go for the farmers,” Lisa said.

This makes them their own quality control. Pick the best fruit, wash and clean how they prefer and keep their kitchen as close to zero waste as possible.

The fruit that doesn’t make it into the jars gets made into wine, which becomes jelly. Vegetables that don’t get canned go to the compost, which goes back to the soil. Gene has even opened a compost collection site at the Farmers Market.

Working with the u-pick farms also keeps the support and economic growth local.

“That’s another thing that’s incorporated with supporting farmers - actually just gardeners at some point - supporting the local community gets boiled into all that. It just makes sense to have a community to support each other and keep our funds local, which growth is exponential,” Gene said.

Choosing to only produce seasonal preserves “felt obvious” to the Joseys after having worked with u-pick farms and small farms. Eating what’s in season supplies nutrients needed for the weather.

“It’s the freshest, it’s the healthiest,” Lisa said. “And it’s what we need at that time of the year. Like citrus. Look when citrus grows, when there’s not much sun. And then the mustard, collard green, get that extra iron.”

Having their products seasonal and based on what farmers choose to grow creates demand when things are in season Lisa added. They added pickled red onions to their repertoire after one of their farmers decided to start growing them.

People will ask why they don’t have more things — like strawberry jam or pepper jelly — year-round that can be found in the stores. But they have 40 to 50 products at any given time, all seasonal and local.

“It is just teaching people about the seasons and teaching people how much actually grows in Louisiana,” Lisa.

A purpose with Josey’s Goods that came along later is education and culture. To the Joseys, good food spans all age gaps. Teaching younger generations about the abundance of food that grows in Acadiana naturally, like satsumas and mayhaws.

“This company is based around the Cajun culture,” Gene said. “And to bring back what we do and supporting the farmers.”

They hope educating the public on what farmers do, and how easy it is to do in one’s own backyard, will lead to people feeding the community with their backyards.

"WE'RE NOT JUST A JAR ON THE SHELF'

Lisa grew up canning produce. Growing up on an annual summer garden plowed by her grandpa, she learned about canning fresh vegetables from her dad.

Turning that knowledge into a business took some trial and error. But they create everything with diligence. They take the time to make things right. Their sauerkraut is salted and fermented for five weeks, getting rave reviews from German visitors.

“We’re not just traditional canners,” Lisa said. “We’re a combination of traditional canners, because we do have the tradition, but then I like to do my spin on things because I understand my culture.”

Working off of cookbooks, the couple spent tedious time perfecting each jelly, jam, pickled vegetable, syrup, hot sauce and fermentation process.

“One thing that people don’t see are the failures. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is so delicious.’ Yeah, well, it took some three years to perfect the marmalade. In fact, he has to cook the citrus. For some reason, I can’t get it right,” Lisa said.

“I turn it into a chemistry lab. Cooking on the surface, I’m like ‘Nope! Something is going on here. Got to figure it out,’” Gene said.

They know they’ve done their due diligence when someone says their product tastes just like how their mawmaws made it.

With an ever-evolving list of products to choose from, Lisa’s favorite product is their blackberry jam. A few items tie for second but nothing beats their blackberry jam for her.

Gene is of a different mindset. Anything with ginger in it is his favorite. He says their blackberry ginger jam goes great on a cheesecake. But the ginger jelly itself is a delicious addition to any tea. But one can’t skip out on their pickled zucchini and squash.

Their suggestions for which product is best is simple — come and find out for yourself.

“We’re still in that building stage where people need to know why we’re not just a jar on the shelf. Because we’re not just a jar on the shelf. We have a story. We’re quality. We’re different,” Lisa said.