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  • Kennedy Pirlet

Coffee on the Go: Little Prairie Coffee Co.

Drink Coffee. Do Life.

This is the tagline for a mobile coffee cart based in Volga, South Dakota. For its owner, Jen Pederson, coffee is something she has loved since she was a teenager. Growing up on the East Coast, she frequently stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts before school in the mornings.

“It all started with my love for coffee,” she says. “I’ve been drinking coffee since the specialty coffee market came onto the scene.”

Pederson is one of many vendors at the Brookings Farmers Market. These area businesses provide goods, like coffee, to local residents as well as visitors to the community. 

She entered the coffee game when she came to the Midwest and began managing the Scooter's coffee shop in Madison, South Dakota.

“Before I was a manager at Scooters, I really only knew what I liked to drink. Working there, I was able to immerse myself into coffee culture,” she says.

From learning how to craft orders to suit customers’ coffee preferences, Pederson developed two things – the skill to create specialty drinks and a taste for gourmet coffee beans.

Her two stepkids are actively involved in 4-H and showing livestock. Every summer, she and her husband would head to fairs packed with every possible food vendor you could imagine, but no coffee. 

“It became a running joke between all of us,” she says. “Who would have to be the one to venture out and find a Starbucks or a local coffee shop open early enough to get us what we need?”

A mobile coffee cart is Pederson’s answer. Not only could she fill the need at the fairgrounds, she could also attend local events like the Brookings Farmers Market. 

Her favorite book series growing up inspired her to name her company Little Prairie Coffee Co. The simple nod to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books connected her to communities in South Dakota. 

Pederson set out to build a menu and find the coffee beans to bring the taste she strived for to her customers. 

“I have an espresso machine, so I have all the basics on the menu – Americanos, lattes, that kind of stuff,” she says. “But I talked with my stepkids about what to add in terms of non-coffee options. We also include lemonades, smoothies, and Italian sodas.”

Pederson settled on a roaster located near Beresford, South Dakota. “I ultimately chose Rainy Day Coffee Co. for my beans, as the owner was a friend I had known previously. After many tastings, she was able to tweak the flavor to what I was looking for, which I appreciated,” she explains.

Pederson and her husband now book private events through their website and attend local events as well. She saw the Brookings Farmers Market on Facebook last year and decided to get involved. 

She attended more than a dozen market Saturdays in 2023 and served as many regular customers as a mobile coffee cart could offer, something that was exciting for her.

As she looks to the future, Pederson hopes to continue to increase her bookings. After all, getting into the coffee business is all about helping a customer drink coffee and do life. 

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