December 8, 2022 at 8:21 p.m.

Stirring in lots of love

Hetke establishes home baking business
Janet Hetke stands in her farmhouse kitchen Nov. 25 where she runs CloverKey Kitchen near Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Hetke said baking brings her joy, and her small business is allowing her to live her dream. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
Janet Hetke stands in her farmhouse kitchen Nov. 25 where she runs CloverKey Kitchen near Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Hetke said baking brings her joy, and her small business is allowing her to live her dream. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN

By Danielle Nauman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

LADYSMITH, Wis. – Baking soothes Janet Hetke’s soul and takes her back to a simpler time when a homemade pie could improve nearly any situation.
“I grew up making pies all my life and learned to make them at my mother’s side,” Hetke said. “A homemade pie could turn any event or gathering into a special occasion.”
As an adult, Hetke continued the traditions of her grandmother and mother and took pies to family gatherings and church socials. About five years ago, Hetke donated a homemade pie to be sold in a silent auction fundraiser at the county fair. That pie sold for what Hetke considered to be an astounding price of $50. With that interest, Hetke began the tradition of donating pies to various fundraisers. Each donation seemed to bring a little more money, with a pie selling for $150 at the Wisconsin Ayrshire Breeders’ Association annual meeting last spring.
Hetke and her husband, Paul, milk 50 registered Ayrshires on their Rusk County CloverKey Farm near Ladysmith.
Through a friend, Hetke learned of legislation that had been passed for the food-based cottage industry. The 2017 Senate Bill 271, commonly known as the Wisconsin Cookie Bill, allowed for the sale of homemade low-contaminant flour-based baked goods.
“That legislation opened the door for a home bakery business,” Hetke said. “There are a lot of particulars, but it created an avenue for the sale of those items.”
The timing of that bill coincided with an ample supply of lard, which, based on what she learned from her mother and grandmother, is an ingredient Hetke considers essential to baking pies.
“My daughter and son-in-law opened a small butcher shop, and she asked me if I would be interested in lard to render,” Hetke said. “I now have access to all the lard I could ever need and then some. “
Like adding ingredients to a mixing bowl, Hetke began putting together the pieces of her own pie-making business which she coined CloverKey Kitchen after her family’s dairy farm.
“I really agonized over pricing,” Hetke said. “Once you factor in ingredients and time, pies are not cheap to make.”
After polling friends, relatives and neighbors, Hetke settled on charging $25 per pie, or a special of $45 for two pies.
Hetke began searching opportunities to sell her baked goods and was able to procure a spot at the Ladysmith Farmers Market beginning in early June. The first week, Hetke took 10 pies to the market and sold out.
“There is something about taking a pretty pie out of the oven and admiring it,” Hetke said. “To have other people appreciate and enjoy them as well, that is even better.”
As the summer progressed, Hetke began attending the Bruce Farmers Market on occasion as well. She enjoyed increasing success at participating in those local markets and began to branch out, adding cookies and homemade breads to the inventory she loaded up each week.
“The bread, especially, has turned into something that has brought regular repeat customers,” Hetke said. “I have three pretty regular customers that will come out to the farm and pick up loaves of bread every week.”
Hetke developed a Facebook page to help promote her business but has found that the face-to-face contact she makes with customers at the farmers markets has been the best pathway to growing her business.
“The farmers markets are a great way to have direct contact with the customer,” Hetke said. “That has been the best experience for me.”
CloverKey Kitchen kept Hetke busy and up to her elbows in flour throughout the summer. Throughout the summer, she sold 153 pies, 86 baker’s dozens of cookies and 50 loaves of bread.
As the farmers market season wound down in late September, Hetke was left wondering how to shape her off-season marketing. She has looked into shipping her products.
“I sent some cookies to a friend who had surgery; I used an empty Pringles potato chip container for those and that worked well,” Hetke said. “A dozen cookies fit the container pretty well, and the cookies made it to my friend in good shape.”
Shipping pies and breads are another story, Hetke said.
“It would be difficult to pack the pies in a fashion that they could make it through the transport in one piece,” Hetke said. “And by the time homemade bread spends a few days in the mail, you lose that freshness that makes homemade bread so good.”
Hetke has developed a pie of the month club for local customers to enjoy a variety of pies throughout the year. She also has punch cards, so a free dozen cookies or loaf of bread can be earned with the purchase of 10.
With the slowing down of the winter season, Hetke is turning her thoughts to what CloverKey Kitchen’s offerings might look like next spring.
“I am looking at starting to do some cake decorating,” Hetke said. “You can’t get a decorated graduation cake here in Ladysmith any longer, so there is maybe a need for that.”
Regardless of what direction CloverKey Kitchen will take in the spring, Hetke revels in what she is doing.
“Baking and selling my work, this is living my dream,” Hetke said. “I love being in this kitchen. I love what I am doing. I have always encouraged my children to find what makes them happy in life. This is what makes me happy.”


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