Kennelwood Farms has strong roots to its jelly making business.

They still have one of Clifton Kennel’s original trees left – an apple tree. The fruit from this tree was used by the late, Clifton and Joan Kennel, to make cinnamon apple jelly.

“That apple tree is the one that started our jelly making,” Debbie Kennel said.

Bob and Debbie Kennel are now the caretakers of the tiny, but mighty, fruit and vegetable orchard – Kennelwood Farms – started by Bob’s parents not far from Beaver Crossing, Nebraska – a community west of Lincoln.

Today, they have expanded their jelly and jam offerings to 42 flavors – always with requests for more. Their efforts are proof there is also a lot more than jelly and jam packed into each jar.

The farm has been in the family for at least four generations. Ulysses S. Grant signed the homestead deed.

The jelly business began with Clifton’s small, family-sized orchard on a portion of their farm. He started the orchard in the 1970s, but almost 45 years later, it was nearly destroyed.

A tornado in 2014 uprooted many trees in the Beaver Crossing area, but Clifton’s original apple tree survived, albeit damaged. When a fruit tree is damaged, it’s more susceptible to disease. The storm left the Kennels with much cleanup work. They have worked in recent years to restore the orchard with new life.

They planted cherry, peach, plum, pear and apple trees. They also added blueberries and strawberries and have black walnut trees and wild plum bushes.

The farm is a special place for the Kennels. The couple developed a deeper relationship with the orchard when Bob’s father passed away and they took up the job of pruning trees and mowing lawns.

Wild raspberry bushes and gooseberries dot the land, and three artesian springs feed Walnut Creek, that runs through the farm.

A Boy Scout mapped where the southern branch of the original Oregon Trail went across the land in Seward County to earn his Eagle Scout Medal, and the Kennels have been told that at one time there was a stagecoach stop on their land, used when wagon trains needed to rest their animals.

“Some of the walnut trees were probably saplings when the pioneers came through here,” Debbie said.

They’ve also been told their farm hosted a post office and Bob’s grandfather, Guy Cooper, donated land for a schoolhouse.

“This farm has truly seen its share of small town, American history,” Debbie said. “It really is an amazing feeling to know that we are blessed to be the current caretakers of the land.”

When it comes to the homegrown products, Debbie’s favorites are cinnamon apple, pineapple, strawberry and wild blueberry. Bob also likes the cinnamon apple as well as the cinnamon peach jam and strawberry jam. Dr. Pepper jelly sells more than any other flavor, but customer favorites change.

“One day we will sell a lot of cinnamon apple or pineapple jelly and the next day we will sell more apricot jam or honey jelly. That is why we keep making new flavors,” Debbie said. “We want to have something for everyone.”

The couple also grows organic vegetables, which has been a learning process, according to Debbie. Historic rains and flooding this year caused them to replant almost everything.

“And then it rained even more,” Debbie said.

The cucumber crop was successful, as were cherry tomatoes and pumpkins.

“All we can do is learn,” she added.

The Kennels sell their history- and love-packed jams and jellies at the Seward and York farmer’s markets. They post events and farm happenings and take orders by email at kennelwoodfarms@gmail.com.

“What I love the most about what we do is that it’s something Bob and I can do together,” Debbie said. “Our ancestors only had homemade jams and jellies. They didn’t have the luxury of store bought. By making our own, we can ensure there are no additives or anything imitation added. I have found the taste of real, homemade jams and jellies, is entirely different from anything you can get off a chain store shelf.”

Their customers notice the difference too, and that is the most important part of what they do, Debbie said.

“We have been told by several parents that our jelly or jam is the only kind their child will eat,” she said. “That makes us feel really good and proud.”

Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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