The Power of Community
I’m Soleil Hutchinson, owner of Soleil’s Farm and an organic farmer tending to 6 acres of vegetables in South Melville, Prince Edward Island. I chose the crazy, unpredictable life of a farmer because, above all else, I believe in the power and beauty of community. I believe that together, a community of committed farmers and eaters can create a better food system, where we can all celebrate and enjoy good food.
How Farming Found Me
My journey to becoming a farmer started with a choice: let hopelessness take hold or focus on the good. I had taken a degree in Environmental Studies and felt so frustrated. Our world’s ecosystems were in grave danger, but it seemed like no one had any ideas on how to help repair the damage us humans had done. I became a rebellious environmentalist, ready to fight for what I believed was right. To say that my mom was concerned about the path I was going down would be an understatement. Thankfully she stepped in and suggested I focus on the good; she’s a wise woman.
I decided to travel and work on organic farms because it seemed like ‘the good’ I was searching for, plus I’d always loved food and the idea of homesteading. I ended up apprenticing on a mixed-vegetable farm in Portland, Oregon for two years. It was there that I found a way to bring together what I loved - community and food - while working towards creating a better world.
Starting Soleil’s Farm
I returned to PEI to be close to my family and started a ¼ acre mix vegetable farm. Over the next 10 years, I learned the ins and outs of the Island’s climate and soil (often through trial and error!) and developed great relationships with local chefs that wanted to treat their customers to the freshest produce possible. With each year that passed, my acreage grew, and I had to take on employees and purchase farm equipment - everything was an exciting, yet daunting challenge!
As I came into my own as a farmer, the demand on PEI for local food seemed to skyrocket. I began partnering with other farmers to supply local restaurants, which made things much easier when it came to ordering and delivering. The chefs and farmers were both happy with this streamlined supply/distribution approach.
Our Farmer Collective
As much as I loved supplying restaurants exclusively, I realized that my desire to help build a community of farmers and eaters wasn’t possible without a direct connection to my customers. I also wanted to make sure the food I was growing was accessible to the average Islander, since most of the restaurants I was working with were upscale and catered to tourists.
In 2015, our farmer collective came together and created a Winter Food Basket (similar to a CSA-style box) to provide Islanders with access to local, organic food during a time of year that it’s typically harder to source food locally. The Winter Food Basket proved to be a great success and we continue to offer it each year. In 2018, I also launched a Summer Food Basket that featured oodles of delicious goods from our food collective, including kombucha, sourdough bread, pastured meats, and (of course!) fresh produce.
Through this new adventure, I discovered that I LOVE connecting directly with the people that have chosen to support our farmer collective. Our community of farmers and eaters has grown with each year that’s passed, and I continue to dream up myriad ways to bring everyone together for celebrations on the farm and beyond.
Yes, Soleil’s Farm is a 6-acre mix vegetable farm located in South Melville and it is owned by me, but there’s so much more to it than just me and my vegetables. It’s the farmers that have joined forces (collaboration over competition for the win!), it’s the eaters that support us by choosing to buy local, it’s the chefs that showcase the freshest, highest-quality ingredients from PEI, it’s the land that’s being restored with love and conscientious farming methods. In short, it’s the brilliant community of people supporting each other and taking care to repair the land that nourishes us.
Jen & Derek's Farm
Jen Campbell the friendliest, hard working and dedicated mix vegetable farmer I know. It’s no wonder she’s often referred to as a Superstar Farmer! We love working with Jen!
Tessa & Andrew
The Craig Family grow some of the best certified organic potatoes the Island has to offer! And they do it with such grace and a glowing smile. Having this family part of the team is a no brainer
Marc and Krista Schurman
Atlantic Grown Organics
Marc and Krista Schurman, along with their three teenage children, run a 3-acre heated greenhouse near Kensington. Having them in our collective helps ensure we have warmth-loving crops, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, all year round and best of all, their vegetables are Certified Organic. We tip our hats to these farming magicians for making the winter months on PEI as tasty as can be!
Red Soil Organics
Red Soil Organics is the kind of farm we love partnering with because we can always count on them supplying exceptional-tasting cold crops. No matter what they grow - organic cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc. - they simply do it right!
Farm-fresh seasonal and eco-certified fruit grown right here in PEI? Yes, please! Arlington Orchards helps us get our sweet, juicy fix of fresh fruits during the harvest season with their homegrown supply of apples, pears, peaches, and plums. All we can say is YUM!