Photo by Maria DeForrest
Sussex County entrepreneur Jocelyn Bottomley, owner of Fat Cat Farms, serves up purr-ific baked goods alongside fresh farm produce.
On Saturdays at the Riverwalk Farmers Market in Milford, it’s no surprise to see a line of customers looking to connect with the owner of Fat Cat Farms. Of course, with the big fat cat emblazoned on the booth’s banner, her apron and the product labels, it makes sense many would be intrigued.
Owner and baker Jocelyn Bottomley has become known for her specialties: everything English muffins, signature chocolate chip cookies and duck eggs. She also offers a different cookie variety each week, plus chicken eggs—if you get there early—and heirloom vegetables and herbs.
Bottomly grows the vegetables and cares for the ducks and chickens who lay the eggs she sells. She also has a Department of Agriculture permit to use her home kitchen for baking.
Here, she lets the story behind her purrific creations out of the bag.
Tell us about Fat Cat Farms. Is there—was there—a Fat Cat?
Yes, it was named after a late fat cat, Pickles. He was a 22-pound tiger cat, and the logo was designed after his photo. I got him in college, and I had him for seven years. He died of a congenital heart defect.
How did your business come to be?
After I graduated from Towson University [in Maryland], I started in retail management. It slowly sucked my soul away; I was looking for something that challenged me and fed me, so I created a basic business plan in 2018. I had a background in food safety, plus I like to cook and garden, and I had some outlets in mind.
Let’s hear more about your products.
The English muffins were my first product. I saw a niche market. I’d never made them before, but I decided to focus on one thing and be good [at it]. I use a San Francisco sourdough starter delivered by my sister [who lives there]. They have to triple rise, and they are finished on the griddle—more than a day’s work. The biggest batch I can make is 12 packs of four muffins, and I have to make multiple batches.
The English muffins sell out; most people enjoy the “everything” seasoning—just like the bagels.
Your packaging is somewhat unique: paper wrapping and twine, topped with a paper label.
I also sell a Fat Cat cloth tote. I like that it’s useful, and I don’t use plastic. Everything is sustainable, preservative-free. The wrapping papers are made with spinach and cane sugar. Yes, it costs more, but it’s important for my customers. I don’t do this for the money.
I want to get an incubator kitchen, and I want to do one other farmers market, the Black Swamp Artisanal Market in Dover.