Chilliwack grandmother Diane Kristoff has been making jam for her family for more than 50 years.
And while her family has quietly appreciated her efforts for decades, Kristoff's jam-making prowess is going public. Kristoff's preserves recently won the distinction of Best Overall Jam from judges in the Pacific National Exhibition's Agricultural Producers Competition. Until last year, Kristoff had never considered her jams award worthy.
"My granddaughter works at the PNE and she said, 'Why don't you put your jam in the competition?'" said Kristoff during a phone interview Monday afternoon. "I thought that sounded like fun."
Kristoff won two first place ribbons this year, including Best Overall Jam with an orange and cranberry combination that pushed her over the top. Karin Brauch of Preserved B.C. Sunshine was also a winner in the jam competition and it is her jam featured in the Courier photograph.
The producers competition is a throwback to a time when the PNE was more about agriculture and less about scream-inducing midway rides. The competition is small and the divisions this year include preserves, salsa, eggs, pickles and artisan cheese.
PNE president and CEO Mike McDaniel said The Fair at the PNE still has a large agricultural component.
But McDaniel admits that until recent years the producers competition has been dwindling. "Agriculture is still the forefront of tradition and even though it's still significant, it's not what it was in the '70s," said McDaniel. "That's the way it was for a couple of decades until we decided to find ways to make it relevant again."
He added with the surging interest in farm-to-table foods and eating local, that relevance has returned and he envisions the producers competition growing annually. The PNE's Safeway Farm Country show barns include exhibits testament to that movement such as Agriculture in the City, which offers information on incorporating urban agriculture into city living. The exhibit, which launched last year, will include displays and information on backyard bees, chickens, community gardening and composting.
Children and youth can also try their hand at being a "farmer for an hour" in the Kids Discovery Farm, which showcases 10 sectors of agriculture and offers opportunities to milk a cow, pedal a tractor, collect eggs and harvest apples. Kristoff's award-winning jam will be on display in the Safeway Farm Country show barn.
McDaniel said information will be offered on everything from salmon farming to Okanagan vineyards.
"I know some people think fish farming is not politically correct, but we're trying to offer as much information as possible on every kind of agriculture," said McDaniel.
Kristoff's win was determined last week at the Main Street Farmers Market by judges including Darlene Tanaka, Jackie Ellis, Tara McDonald and chef Andrea Carlson.
Kristoff is waiting until the end of the month when her homemade jams will be auctioned off at the annual PNE Charity Agriculture Auction, the grand finale of its Agricultural Producers Competition. Champion entries from each division will be auctioned off with proceeds in support of the B.C. Youth In Agriculture Foundation. Kristoff will make the drive in from Chilliwack to attend.
"I'll have to take all new jars of jam," said Kristoff. "But the auction is to help children with an interest in agriculture, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Fair at the PNE starts this Saturday, Aug 18 and runs until Sept. 3. For a complete list of events and schedules, visit pne.ca. See Friday's edition of the Courier for more on the PNE's tradition of agriculture. A complete list of winners will be provided next week in the Courier.