Shumate Carries On a Kentucky Proud Tradition
Father Was a Pioneer of Kentucky's Local Food Movement
By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News
PARIS, Ky. (Oct. 30, 2018) — Cliff Shumate is a rare Kentucky Proud member.
Cliff, a second-generation member, said his late father, Wayne, was one of the original members of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s (KDA’s) marketing program, which in its infancy was called Kentucky Fresh.
“Wayne was at the news conference introducing Kentucky Fresh with [former Agriculture Commissioner] Billy Ray Smith,” said Roger Snell, the KDA’s farm-to-retail liaison who often traveled the state with Wayne promoting the new program. “We worked directly to coordinate farm visits by Walmart store managers.”
Cliff said Wayne and his blackberry farm, WindStone Farms, was the very first member of a Kentucky Proud/Kentucky Fresh predecessor called “Pride of Kentucky” in 1991.
“Roger said, ‘Your dad actually predated the [Kentucky Proud] name,’” Cliff said. “He [Wayne] would stop everything to talk blackberries. He loved Kentucky Proud being highlighted in retail venues.”
Wayne was instrumental in getting the blackberry named the official state fruit of Kentucky in Senate Bill 266, filed by former state Sen. R.J. Palmer of Winchester. Former Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed the legislation into law on July 13, 2004.
When Wayne died, Cliff’s mother sold the family’s 1,450-acre cattle and tobacco farm in Nicholas County, including its blackberry patch, and sold the WindStone Farms brand to Lawrenceburg-based Algood Food Company in 2011.
The sale didn’t stop Cliff’s interest in blackberries, which was handed down from his father.
“I planted the first blackberries in Nicholas County in 1985,” Cliff said. “We came from an area where tobacco was king and didn’t understand alternative crops.”
Soon, the Shumates were harvesting more blackberries than they could sell to Lexington retailer Foodtown Supermarkets, so Wayne bought a couple of chest freezers and froze the surplus berries.
“Dad made blackberry jam at Christmas as presents,” Cliff remembered. “That’s how he started in the blackberry jam business. They say necessity if the mother of invention.
“Folks just raved about it. It was a real simple recipe handed down from my grandmother. It had a real wholesome taste because it was just fruit and sugar.”
Today, Cliff uses the same recipe to make blackberry and blackberry jalapeño jams that have won back-to-back blue ribbons at the Kentucky State Fair. He sells his jams under the C.W. Shumate brand; he was named Clifford Wayne Jr. after his father.
The newest C.W. Shumate product is Sweet and Sassy Blackberry BBQ Sauce that Cliff compares to a fancy ketchup. He provided bottles to be included in Kentucky Proud wedding baskets.
“It’s great as a dipping sauce,” Cliff said. “It has no artificial color – most barbecue sauces use red dye – it’s gluten free, and there’s no preservatives, yet it has a two-year shelf life because of the apple cider vinegar in it.”
Cliff doesn’t grow the blackberries these days. He buys them from another Kentucky Proud member, Sageser Berry Farm near Stamping Ground.
“I like purchasing from them because it’s a win-win,” Cliff said. “He’s an excellent producer, but not everybody is equipped to go out and market.
“I’m focusing less on the farming and more on the marketing. It’s hard to do both.”
Another Kentucky Proud member, Pop’s Pepper Patch of Louisville, processes Shumate’s products.
There’s another reason Cliff is a rare Kentucky Proud member. Name another one who is writing a series of children’s books.
The first story in the series, titled “Blackberry Tails,” was about a stray puppy, Gram, that Cliff’s daughter, Kaylyn, found on the side of the road five years ago.
“I sat down one day and started writing Gram’s story, and it became a children’s story called ‘Gram’s Journey,’” he said. “It’s been a wonderful blessing. I’m peddling barbecue sauce one day and books the next.
“When I included blackberries, I wasn’t thinking of promoting our blackberry products; I was thinking of Kentucky folklore,” he added, noting a fourth book, “Pearl’s Trek,” is currently at the publisher awaiting printing. “We’ve shipped books to 39 states, including Alaska. I’m proud that the books have a distinct Kentucky undertow with references to places in the state throughout.”
To take a look and order from Cliff’s unique assortment of jams, sauces, and books, go to cwshumate.com.