Getting to Know Jim Weaver from Meadow View Farms
Every September, we at Sweet Heat Gourmet and approximately 50+ chile companies, make the annual pilgrimage to the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival. The festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and one of the main attractions was the incredibly cheap “pick your own peppers” right down the road at Meadow View Farms, owned by Jim Weaver and his family.
We’ve been buying super hots from Jim since we started our company about 3 ½ years ago. If you haven’t been to his farm in person, it truly is chilehead nirvana. There are acres and acres of hot peppers, 200+ varieties according to Jim, with 50 of those super hots. I took this opportunity to ask Jim a few questions about his farm and his family, and how they got interested in growing super hot peppers.
Jim and his wife Alma have 7 children, all who have been involved in their business at one time or another. Jim and his parents moved to the Kutztown area from Lancaster when he was 8 years old, and he grew up on a farm 5 miles from the current Meadow View location. His wife lived locally as well. Jim and Alma currently live on the farm with his parents.
Originally the farm was 190 acres and was divided in 1952, and has remained a 70 acre farm since then. The packing shed that still remains on the property to this day was built in 1832 and is still in use. Meadow View Farms started out growing red beets, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet corn in 1985, and started growing peppers in 1991, with the addition of heirloom tomatoes in 1995, and then the super hot peppers were started in 2003.
I asked Jim how he got interested in growing super hots and he said “a chef friend of mine, Christopher Markey, encouraged me to start growing hot peppers in the early 1990s. Super hots were not identified until the 21st century. Today we are growing 200+ varieties of hot peppers, about 50 of those could be classified as super hots”. When asked if it was a challenge to grow the peppers in Central Pennsylvania, Jim replied “they grow rather well. The greatest challenge is our higher humidity. Hot, dry weather makes for hot chiles.”
During one of our past trips to the farm to pick up peppers, Jim told us about his son Jay Weaver who created a breed called Jay’s Ghost Scorpion that is still available today. When I asked for some background on the creation of the pepper, Jay Weaver himself gave me a brief story of how the hybrid came about. “The Jay’s Ghost Scorpion was a random cross between a Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper) and a Trinidad Scorpion that occurred in our field that I happened to be lucky to find. I loved the looks of it at first sight and decided to put it through a grow out period to stabilize, which consists of growing it 5 years and always selecting the “true to kind” peppers. Through the process of elimination, I bred out all the undesirable stock, resulting in a true Jay’s Ghost Scorpion. Since then I have also added a peach version of the traditional Jay’s Red Scorpion.”
Since I began working with Jim, I’ve learned that he sells to a lot of craft hot sauce creators. I inquired if he saw an increase in demand for the super hots over the last few years, and he said yes, he definitely has. He said it started as a novelty pepper for the “deer camp crowd and motorcycle crowd, the YouTube eating crowd” but now his most enduring demand is from the hot sauce makers. He said the super hots are by far the most popular pepper they grow.
When I asked Jim if there was anything he would like to share with the chilehead community, and what it means to support local farmers and food, he said “it’s been a lot of work, but it is a fun business. You meet interesting people. We are currently working with a biological product that we feel is helping our production. Our peppers have never been better. Having the support of the local chilehead community means a lot.”
Jim currently sells to a dozen different hot sauce companies throughout the United States and Canada. Some only purchase a couple hundred pounds, while others buy up to a couple thousand pounds. When we started our company, we were a very small production, but Jim still worked with us. Whether you are a novice, a company that is just starting out or a well established hot sauce company, Jim will work with you to get you the super hots you need for your recipes, whether it’s 5 pounds or 1000. You will be directly supporting a farm and getting the highest quality product. Consider looking into the agriculture community where you live and see if you can work with someone local and support them.
If you’d like to contact Jim Weaver at Meadow View for more information about the hot peppers he grows, or any of the other produce he farms, you can contact him at:
Fax: 610-682-0777 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org