In 2004, at the age of 70, Hans Juergen Wiens sold his business, including several farms, a feed business, and his last pig, all in one year. He was unemployed and restless. But then, one night, he remembered his mother’s resourcefulness. After the Second World War, when there was a food shortage all over Europe, she taught her children to pick wild berries in the forest and to dig leftover potatoes from the fields that the farmers had harvested. The family never went hungry. Many years later, when his mother came to visit in Canada, she made a big batch of plum jam, using Lombard plums that the farmer could not sell because they were too small.
Those memories got him thinking. Like the Lombard plums that were too small, there were other possibilities such as surplus rhubarb and peaches that were too soft to sell. With advice from his brother, who had also enjoyed his mother’s jam, Wiens found a new hobby in his retirement. He began experimenting until he found the right pectin to make the perfect jam.
In the first few years, all the jam that Wiens made was given away. He converted one of his barns into a certified kitchen, with annual inspections, and now produces 60 varieties of jam. The hobby has grown into a big business that employs Wiens, his daughter and two grandchildren full-time. The jams are sold in 15 different markets, in a bakery and a meat shop.
“This jam business is possible because of all the fruit, and the many varieties, harvested in the Niagara area,” he says. “All the fruit used in the jam-making is fruit that cannot be sold on the market or in stores; it is not perfect enough.” Wiens receives so much second-hand fruit he can hardly process all the fruit that is offered.
Over the years, Wiens has been involved at Niagara United Mennonite Church. Because he was self-employed, his time was flexible, and he was able to serve on various boards in the community. Organizations such as MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) have benefitted from his jam. From humble beginnings to two successful businesses, Wiens lives out his faith, and uses creativity in his retirement career.