Cowichan Valley Voice - April 2013 - Read a synopsis of the recent Farmer2Farmer conference held in Victoria.
Cowichan Valley Voice - October 2010
SOL FARM: Owners Stephen Schacht and Ramona Froehle-Schacht specialize in growing heritage vegetables, poultry, and flowers. Coming up on their third year of farming, they are well known in the valley for their heirloom tomatoes, which look and taste amazing. Just in time for Thanksgiving they expect to harvest Walla Walla onions, radicchio, winter squash, including Turk's Turban, Butternut, Buttercup and Bush Delicata, sugar pumpkins, purple carrots, golden beets, heirloom tomatoes, and - with a little luck - sweet potatoes. You can find their organically grown produce Saturdays at the Duncan Farmers' Market. Their heritage turkeys will be ready at Christmas.
Cowichan Valley Citizen - July 23, 2010
Yummy things are growing at Valley’s SOL Farm:
Ramona Froehle-Schacht and Stephen Schacht encourage people to see for themselves where their food is from.
LEXI BAINAS - CITIZEN
SOL: the word has many meanings. In French, it means “soil”, in Spanish “sun”, and in the Cowichan Valley it signifies “small organic and local”. And that really describes SOL Farm at 4077 Lanchaster Rd., the latest dream of Valley-dwellers Ramona Froehle-Schacht and Stephen Schacht.
They have been farming it for three years and now say it’s time to join the annual Tour of Farms to let the Valley know what they’re up to on the rolling land west of Duncan.
Keen on quality food, they’re farming organically, even if they’re not chasing a certification according to Ramona.
“We lived many years ago on Denman Island and grew our own food organically. We were ahead of the curve back then. It is definitely more mainstream now. Our customers ask us about the food but, when we tell them that we use organic methods, that’s really what they want to know – that they are buying from their neighbor, a local producer, and that there are no pesticides or chemical fertilizers used.”, she said.
Trust in a supplier they know is a top priority for many customers. “If they have the option of getting certified organic from California or locally grown but not necessarily certified they will go for local, that’s what I am discovering”, she said.
That’s why SOL Farm is on the tour this year.
Stephen agreed that after some of the publicity given to some food produced offshore, buyers are asking more questions, but he also sees farming as a foundation of a successful society.
“If we just live in our little houses and buy our food at the supermarket, we lose our collection with the earth.” “We’ve come through millennia living close to the land and suddenly we’re saying we don’t need that anymore. That’s not true.”, He said.
The couple had a strong connection with the Valley even before they moved here, having enjoyed camping on the Cowichan River for many years while they lived in Victoria. They discovered land on Lanchaster that was only a few blocks from the river. “We thought it would be amazing to live here. And, now, when we are hot from working at two or three in the afternoon we just go down the hill and jump in the river for half and hour and come back up refreshed. It’s magical,” he said.
The big greenhouse, home of SOL’s special heirloom tomatoes, is not a velvet lined box, but it could be considering the treasury of flavor contained in the oddly shaped bounty it produces. With names like, Black Krim, Striped German, Zapotec, Red Cavern, and Brandywine, each tomato has it’s own devotees, who watch the markets eagerly to snap up their favourites.
Stephen assembled the greenhouse himself over several months. The roof is opened and closed by a computer that reads the greenhouse temperature and ensures that these special plants get the best of all possible worlds. “They grow like weeds,“ he said.
Walking in one of the gardens amid the flourishing fennel and onions that are now beginning to show their shape after a cool spring and early summer, it’s easy to become caught up in the enthusiasm of this pair of Valley newcomers.
They grow wonderful peas, fava beans – the tiny Italian variety – broccoli, cauliflower, a special pointy cabbage – Early Jersy Wakefield- purple carrots and golden beets.
In the lower field, they grow sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, lots of lettuces, radicchio, peppers,
Tayberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a new atmosphere in the district”, Ramona said, pointing out that plans are afoot to develop winter crops as well as redeveloping their orchard with younger trees. Stephen agreed, “We have the longest growing season in Canada here. They are starting to call the Valley, “The Provence of Canada”, for that reason. We can grow things here that can’t be grown anywhere else in the country.”
SOL Farm also boasts a clutch of adorable two and a half week old Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys, and watching them is lots of fun, he said. “We just let them outside yesterday for the first time. Inside they were all getting into this turkey behavior, tucking their heads in. sticking up their tails, puffing their wings out, partly out of boredom, but now they have decided that they love being outdoors so much they are not doing that. No posing or trying to figure out who’s boss. These sociable birds can’t be allowed to range too freely or they will follow their owners right into the house, he said. “They just love people. They’re so cute, they just want to hang out with you.”
The farm is open from 10a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 25. Check the internet at wwwlislandfarmfresh.com for a list and map of all the south Island farms taking part in the tour.