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Kathy Crook’s passion for baking keeps her afloat

After losing everything in her life two times, McKenzie local Kathy Crook stays afloat now by doing what she loves, baking.

Crook travels to four different farmers markets a week to try and expand her business of baking.

“I do Luverne on Mondays, Greenville on Tuesdays, Andalusia on Wednesday and on Thursdays I started my own market,” Crook said. “Then on the weekends, I travel as much as I can. Last weekend I went to Fort Valley, Ga., to the Peach Festival, this weekend I am going to Monticello, Fla., for a Watermelon Festival and I just try to find as many as I can during the weekends.”

Crook began baking 20 years ago in several different places where she has lived.

“I started with a full-on dessert line and that has been since 1997,” Crook said. “I worked with different companies and different variations.”

Yesterday, Crook brought 32 different flavors of fudge.

“Last year at the market I brought all of the different baked goods like cookies, cakes and sweets,” Crook said. “I started seeing that a lot of other people were doing those things. So, I wanted to start the fudge. People didn’t seem to get enough of it. So, I kept on bringing it.”

Each one of her fudge bricks is handmade and the flavors are arranged by the season.

“I keep the basics around all of the time,” Crook said. “The chocolates, the peanut butters, those are the ones that I keep on hand all year. Right now, I have a lot of new flavors for the summer. I have watermelon, peach and pina colada. They are all made homemade in small batches. I cook them on an old-fashioned stove and each batch takes about 20 minutes.”

Crook has lived all over the Northeast and made her way down to the Florida Keys after being on the road of six months.

“I was born and raised in New Jersey,” Crook said. “Then I moved to Pennsylvania, then I moved to Florida after being on the road for six months. While we were in the Keys, we lost everything. Hurricane Irma destroyed everything that we had. We lost our place that we were living, our vehicle just everything was gone. After living in hotels for seven months, we resettled to McKenzie and found a farm there.”

The hurricane was not the first time that Crook lost everything. In 1999, a drunk driver hit her while she was living up north.

“We lost our farm, our business and everything,” Crook said. “I had to relearn a lot of things like the basics, but this is what I love. I always come back to cooking and baking.”

Crook said that farmers markets are essential for local farmers.

“I got to four a week because it is such a great opportunity to get my products out there,” Crook said. “My ultimate goal is to get a storefront, but right now I am just trying to get my products to locals.”