By Stan Friedman
NEW RICHLAND, MN (July 11, 2014) — When the Vista Sisters brought their jellies, syrups, and pies to sell at the farmer’s market in Bloomington, Minnesota, people weren’t sure what to make of them.
“They thought we were nuns,” says a laughing Virginia Swenson. “We got that a lot.”
Customers also couldn’t believe that the duo were giving away all the money they earned. Virginia and her sister, Marjorie Gores, were selling with a purpose—to support missions around the world
The women, both of whom are over 80, also have another purpose. “We want to be a witness to older people,” says Virginia. “We want them to see that there are things they can do help people.”
The women came up with the name Vista Sisters after people kept calling them the “jam ladies,” they said in a December 2010 issue of The Covenant Companion. The name is in honor of the church they grew up attending, Vista Evangelical Covenant Church in New Richland. It was there that their hunger to serve missions began.
So far the women have been supporting Covenant missions that include KICY radio and Alaska Christian College as well as other non-Covenant ministries such as Mission Aviation Fellowship and Bibles for the World.
“A sense of purpose and connection increases longevity,” they write in their new spiral-bound book, The Vista Sisters: Jams, Jellies, and Jesus. They wrote the book at the suggestion of their customers. It provides information on their lives, the missions they support, and serves up some recipes as well.
The women make up to 45 different varieties of jellies that range from rhubarb to basil that they sell in eight-ounce jars, as well as sampler packs. Recipes in the book include rhubarb jam and blueberry jam with orange juice. Pie recipes include apple-cherry and peach-raspberry pies.
The suggestion to write the book came from their customers, the women say. Virginia wrote the first draft, and Marjorie edited it. “I use a lot of dashes—which drives my sister crazy,” Virginia says. Margaret quickly interjects, “and capitals.”
So far the women have sold the book at a local church, the market, and historical society. They are trying to find other places to sell it.
“We don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to selling,” says Virginia, laughing. (They both laugh a lot.)
The book costs $15 and can be ordered by mailing a check to them at 26088 145th Street, New Richland, MN 66072. The Vista Sisters don’t take online orders—they don’t have a computer.