Spapium Little Prairie Farm Case Study
Selection and Services
From the website:
Spapium Farm grows fruits and vegetables on their Lytton farm. Freshly harvested, they are sold directly to consumers at the gate, at farmers’ markets, and at special events, both at the farm and elsewhere. In the past, veggie boxes were available through subscription. Products offered currently and in the past also include herbs and spices, jams, and teas made from farm products.
Other foods here are tseweta, which is our first green in the spring. […] You can preserve it like that at that point in time. When it grows out a little more, it blossoms. So, you’ve got these beautiful blossoms to add to your soups and stews, and when those grow up, they turn into the seeds that we pick for medicine, and some people use them in the sweat lodges and long houses.
Cedar weaving products and workshops complement the food offerings. These workshops have included 12–15 people, but Paula considers four participants to be the optimal number to be manageable and provide the best service. Paula also creates products from roots that she gently and responsibly extracts from the forest, avoiding damaging techniques that are prevalent elsewhere.
Watch Video Clip 1 – Product Selection (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
The farm offered eggs in the past and recently succeeded in a small business acceleration program application. With these funds, they will revive the egg production, building a chicken coop for 100 chickens by March 2021. Other products previously sold include jars of pickles, beets, and bread-and-butter pickles. Paula also still has clothing merchandise available with designs she printed a few years ago; she has plans to do more screen printing in the future.
Besides mostly selling their own original products, SF also promotes products from other artists and creators, such as jade or an artistic paddle by artist Casey Paul made of Juniper and representing the Nlaka’pamux heritage. Paula has also collected baskets from the Sts’ailes, where she used to work, and showcases them together with other intricate baskets from Nuu-chah-nulth.
All of SF’s products promote Indigenous culture through the owners’ sharing of stories and their encouragement to respect and honour the earth. Every interaction with customers is an opportunity to endorse this gentle treatment of nature and engage the visitors with local knowledge keepers. The farm itself is conscious of the materials they use (e.g., no plastic bags, reduce waste and chemicals, etc.) and the way they use the land.
Some products feature pictographs that represent the area’s non-written history left on the rocks, with the Stein Valley being one of the largest pictograph sites in Canada.
Our ancestors laid all those down there for us, so that we’d remember, and so we have some places to go back to.
Watch Video Clip 2 – Explaining Pictographs (Transcript Available) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
In addition, SF currently has options for rustic camping on the five acres next to the main farm, which they also hope to expand into cabins, teepees, or canvas tents in the future—still rustic, but it’s closer to the “glamping” (i.e., glamorous camping) experience that some visitors are looking for. Providing an option for visitors to stay in comfortable accommodations will mean that those visitors can immerse themselves in the healing aspect of this destination, allowing them to learn, relax and create friendships. The property features multiple benches as well as walking trails and a rock outcrop.
While SF and the Indigenous community of Lytton are happy to share their culture and background, there are certain experiences and items (e.g., sweat lodges) that are historically too sensitive to share with tourists. However, resources such as an Elder at a neighbouring creek are available, one who teaches others about the sweat lodge, including at schools in Vancouver. Any interested customer with respect for the culture could be referred to other knowledge keepers to build a relationship and to learn about special traditions.
Possible ideas for the future include offering natural dyes, shirts dyed with natural materials from the area, as well as a storefront on the property. The remote location limits how many people can access the farm, but more and more tourists on excursions and adventures in the summer time are visiting the farm side of the river.
SF maintains a website but mostly sells directly to consumers at farmers’ markets, such as the Lytton Two Rivers Farmers Market. The nature of some of the products sold (e.g., perishable, heavy, etc.) means that shipping is usually cost-prohibitive; the exception being tea and some weaving products. SF has plans to work with the YeKm Food Hub and their commercial kitchen to eventually co-pack and ship products together, following safety regulations. To support sales, the owners also visit a variety of conferences and workshops in different communities.
Their offerings are also distributed and promoted through cultural tours, such as partnering with other food vendors at Skihist Provincial Park outside of Lytton, and offering cedar weaving as part of a tour for about 20 people. Other tour participants were reached by working with Princess Cruises for a shore trip out of Vancouver.
Previously, SF has provided vegetable boxes on a subscription basis (e.g., $20/week subscription for 10 weeks) to Chilliwack and Agassiz residents but discontinued this service. During that time, they also participated in other farmers’ markets, such as Ashcroft and Chilliwack.
Paula compares prices of produce in the area, mostly with other providers at farmers’ markets, but also grocery stores and online. She tries to establish benchmark prices for her products, comparing even with supermarkets. SF’s prices are competitive and in line with other options for consumers. People come to the farm knowing the quality of produce they are going to receive and also knowing that there is no markup for these products. If produce is left over, Paula might offer it to customers to try something new.
Most people are more than happy to pay the prices that we’re setting.
Prices for unique experiences and cedar weaving opportunities have also been positively reviewed, and Paula affirms that “I’ve never had anybody complain to me about prices for anything that we’re offering.” They are considered good value for the money. As an example, at a festival in Merritt, Paula and her family set up a teepee and offered cedar weaving workshops for bracelets, charging $20—and customers “had no problem” paying that price.
Prices are consistent and do not vary much. The farm doesn’t offer any discounts but will consider their supply and harvest at specific times of the year.
Maybe not our prices going lower, but around harvest time, if we have an abundance of something and we have those customers at the farmer’s market, you know, we’ll give them a little bit more.
They also donate extra food they may have to a community member in need, a foodbank, or a school. They have donated to Ruth and Naomi’s Mission in Chilliwack before as well.