Recognizing or even pronouncing the ingredients on a typical bag of dog treats is often a challenge. And like human food, the longer and more confusing the ingredient list, the less healthy it typically is.
Crystal VanDePol wanted better for her Labrador retriever mix Boots, so she started making her own. Realizing her treats were a hit, she began selling them at the Sioux City Farmers' Market.
Her stand is called Smokin’ Joes Baked Goods, named after her grandfather Joe, and it's located near the Tyson Events Center end of the market.
“I wanted something more natural for my dog,” she said. “I also wanted to add some variety at my Farmers’ Market table.”
VanDePol sells treats with her mascot Boomer, a stuffed black dog that sits on her table.
"Boomer brings little kids over to the table," she said. "He just watches over the treats and draws people's attention."
VanDePol found that making dog biscuits was a logical addition to her existing in-home pet sitting business.
“Because of my business and my love of baking, it just made sense to start making dog treats,” she said. “Homemade is important to me whether it’s a dog or a person and everything at my stand I’ve baked.”
She also sells an assortment of desserts and baked goods for human consumption.
VanDePol's dog Boots samples her treats and is the main determiner of whether each variety is a winner.
“Boots isn’t too picky, though,” admitted VanDePol.
Her most popular seller is the chicken bacon biscuit, closely followed by the chicken jerky, which also happens to be Boots’ pick.
VanDePol uses ingredients like peanut butter, pumpkin, chicken and sweet potato to make healthy biscuits, jerky and chews without preservatives. The treats come in both wheat-based and gluten-free varieties for dogs with allergies.
“I like knowing that they’re preservative-free and all-natural, which is how we should be living our lives,” said VanDePol. “It’s healthy for people and pets, too.”
VanDePol enjoys catering her booth to both the two- and four-legged Farmers’ Market attendants, the latter of which didn’t get all the attention they deserved before she started selling her treats.
“People love to bring their pets down here. On Saturdays it’s almost like a pet park,” she said. “I picked dog treats because no one else had them. It was something I didn’t see down here.”
Resisting a sweet treat is easy for health-conscious people who don’t want the calories, but according to VanDePol, Farmers’ Market-goers are often more likely to splurge on their pets than they are on themselves.
“People will spoil their pets. I’ve seen people walk by the pies because they’re on a diet, but then they’ll get stuff for their dog. I get them one way or another,” she added with a laugh.