Meet the Artisan: Roger Harrison
Posted on 22 November 2016
Welcome to the latest edition of Meet the Artisan! We're excited to introduce you to Roger Harrison of Harrison Family Farm. We featured Harrison Family Farm's "Sweet Jasper Heat" Eudora Chow Chow in a recent subscription box. Those of you with Southern roots were already familiar with Chow Chow, I'm sure, but if you're a Southern "transplant" like me, read on to learn more about Chow Chow and how to use it! Plus all the backstory on Roger, his family, and their family recipes!
(Doesn't this family look like fun?!)
Hi Roger! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your family.
I am a ninth generation Jasper County Georgian. My grandmother's side of the family was the Kelleys (the second "e" was later dropped to make it Kelly) who immigrated from Ireland. John Kelley (b. 1630 in Ireland) settled in Virginia, and the family migrated south to Georgia. They settled in Northern Jasper County on what is now Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, a State of Georgia Nature Preserve. The original cabin is mostly gone now, but when I was a kid, my father and I visited it and brought back a dove-tail beam which served as a fire place mantle in my childhood home.
My 83 year old grandmother and I still operate the company. She is my "Chief of Institutional Knowledge," and has taught me all the recipes, tips, and tricks of making our products in the old-fashioned way.
When did you launch your company? Tell us why you decided to launch.
Although most of our recipes are 200+ years old, and have been made continuously over the generations, we didn't start selling commercially until early 2016. After living all over the country and traveling the world with The Coca-Cola Company, I moved back to the farm to help with my aging and failing 85 year-old grandfather. My undergrad degree is in theatre, and I've had some moderate success in the film/tv/modeling industry booming in Georgia. Like any actor, it's rare to be booked every day of the week, so I started Harrison Family Farm, LLC to fill the down time. Little did I know it would consume my days, nights, and weekends in just 9 months.
Since you launched, what would you consider to be your most successful product?
It's really hard to pull one product out as the most successful since our products are so unique and each has its own, at times cult-like, following. We define success as making a quality product that is unique in the market—meaning it's not widely available, but is something people love and often remember from years past.
Clearly, our Eudora Chow Chow, has broken all barriers as it is now the largest artisan small-batch chow chow in the Southeastern United States. To go from 0 to light speed in the course of one calendar year is simply remarkable, and speaks to the incredible recipe, quality, and versatility of the product. When we launched it, we marketed it as more than just a condiment/topping for beans or veggies like older generations remember. It's really great paired with meats as well. Emory University's Oxford Campus uses it as a relish on their hot dog bar. The Company Store, in Porterdale, GA serves a Chow Chow Burger, and Bennie's Red Barn, in St. Simons Island, GA serves it as a side with their premium grass fed beef. People have discovered what a great addition it is in southern salads, like potato salad, chicken salad, or egg salad, and substitutes wonderfully for dill relish in deviled eggs.
What has been a true highlight of launching your business?
We make the products just like our ancestors did; local produce, no preservatives, no fillers, and wholesome ingredients. If we were able to reach back into time, and taste the products next to each other, they would be strikingly similar, and we know that because our oldest living relatives and neighbors tell us the products "taste just like mama and grandma used to make." Seeing the smiles on their faces when they taste our family recipe products is truly priceless. Much like music, there is a connection to food that transcends time and space, and triggers multiple senses in the body. We are truly honored and grateful that we can connect people to their past with our products.
We make the products just like our ancestors did; local produce, no preservatives, no fillers, and wholesome ingredients.
Last question: Do you have any new products coming out soon? If so, can you give us a hint?
We don't want to be so broad in our product offering that we lose the quality for which we have become known. Currently, we offer 6 Gourmet Balsamic Vinaigrettes. We blend authentic imported Italian Balsamic Vinegar, from the Modena Region of Italy, with Georgia Grown produce, like blueberries, Vidalia Onions, Georgia Peaches, Georgia Tomatoes, and Strawberries, to create unique and flavorful dressings and marinades. I anticipate we will launch a low fat Herb Vinaigrette in January to tap into the New Year's Resolution Health Conscious market. Past that, we won't look at new product introduction until the growing/harvest season re-starts in Georgia in the late spring/early summer.
Find Roger and Harrison Family Farms online:
Thank you, Roger!