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Exploring Life & Business with Faith Riley of Stone Soup Farm & Heritage Orchard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Faith Riley.

Hi Faith, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
We are Tim and Faith. Affectionate couple and best friends that built Stone Soup Farm & Heritage Orchard. Adventurers at heart, curators of the good things in life with a healthy dash of earthy grit. Perhaps, the best place to start is with our farm’s name. The timeless folk story of Stone Soup slightly varies in the telling from the many cultures that have adopted it in their oral tradition but the maxim remains alike. Many hands make light work…through cooperation and a bit of imagination, a people may thrive and the self prosper. Our Stone Soup story inspires us to share a passion of regenerative farming through living agricultural experiences in our expression of an American West landscape. This journey has taken a few turns, much like the country road that leads visitors to our doorstep. Starting with a meager table and scale set amongst the Winesap Orchard to sell that season’s harvest, we are steadily growing our heirloom apple orchards and agricultural operations to extend our farm’s bounty. Like all meaningful stories, we have found need to refine and change course, not only for the purpose of our work but so too how we tend the land by wisdom gleaned along the way. Through ongoing research, we are establishing a permaculture based working farm to restore our health while revitalizing the soil and food web systems. As sure as the seasons evolve, so will our crops and programs. It’s a rewarding life and we welcome the occasion to share this cultivated wilderness we call home.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Our journey has definitely has some obstacles through the years. We have has this farm for ten years and are just starting to feel that we are becoming masters at our craft. For the first few years, we both had work elsewhere but then decided to make the leap by committing to our farm full-time and it was the best decision we could have ever made. Since that time, we have dedicated ourselves to research in hopes to develop a diverse landscape; combining regenerative farming practices with the joys of pastoral living to provide wholesome food that nourishes our community. This stewardship to land and community is expressed through our family’s orchards, gardens, and farm tourism offerings. In the early days, we struggled to find definition and when we did strike a cord, there were external variables that made it difficult to establish and have our voice be distinct. That being said, we gleaned some wisdom along the way and with hope, are bearing good fruit from our decisions along the way. We feel honored to be a part of a global network of sustainable growers, collaborating in common pursuit for a healthier way of living. Taking these impactful steps brings us great joy and we can’t wait for our guests to experience the benefits of organic food production on a working apple farm.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Stone Soup Farm & Heritage Orchard?
We are a working family micro-farm & seasonal gardens. We cultivate the senses through nourishing food, beauty from our regional landscape, crackling campfires, and the scent of freshly picked blooms. We savor moments in their season, supporting our community based regenerative apple orchard and agricultural learning space. Stone Soup’s working agricultural model and practice of artisan skills inform our approach to u-pick offerings, farm tours, and organic marketplace. We call this pastoral ideal farmaculture. It’s a philosophy of reviving our roots, combining biodiverse and regenerative farming practices with artisanal living in rhythm with the seasons. This approach to our agritourism industry is some what unconventional. We have discovered a way to not only produce nourishing food using sustainable methods but also allow visitors to experience our themed garden spaces of; flower fields, woodland, kitchen gardens, and heirloom orchards. This permaculture based landscaping combined with crop production has allowed both people and our environment the ability to become revitalized. In addition, we have expanded on our agricultural operations with organic farm shops, seasonal tours and events, and private bookings. Stone Soup Farm is well known to provide exceptional u-pick experiences, organic heirloom food, rare flowers, and memorable experiences for our visiting guests.

In addition, we carry hand-craft collections that highlight our region. Our farm shops offer a variety of small batch products with an emphasis on seasonality. The Cultivar houses Stone Soup’s “The Naturalist” collection of essential oil based soap and candles, along with other aromatherapy products. Incorporating farm grown lavender and florals, our small batch products have an organic sense of place. A space dedicated to gardening essentials, seasonal florals, and handmade wares. Inspired by small town general stores of yesteryear, the Barn House has a plentiful variety of staples for the home. Selections range from organically grown fruits and vegetables from our gardens, culinary delights for the pantry, cookbooks, local specialties, and houseware in simple fashion. The Box Social Grill offers simple and delicious fare with a relaxed, al fresco ambiance. Menu rotates seasonally and always incorporates farm-fresh ingredients. In conclusion, we would like to say that family is at the heart of our operation. We have a small but incredible crew that is invaluable. Let’s go back to the Stone Soup maxim, “Many hands makes light work…through cooperation and a bit of imagination, a people may thrive and the self prosper.” We are grateful for the opportunity to share our family’s farmland with so many.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Covid, in many ways, changed everything for us. When the epidemic first hit, like most of us, we were a bit paralyzed and not sure what to do. After a couple of weeks, we realized that this was the time to make the changes that we had been feeling inside for years. We focused on regenerative farming. For years, we nervously laughed that we felt like our farming was merely “playing to the gig” of our community wide apple season. Always the same process and rarely took the time to think critically about what the future of food production was going to be for our farm. In the spring of 2020, we completed a greenhouse and started all our vegetables from seed. The results were incredibly flavorful and nourishing food that summer and autumn. We made connections with those in common pursuit, building on our community model. In essence, we took the time to look inward, evaluate, and move what we saw to be important in our lives. There was no guarantee that our revised model was going to be accepted by the greater public. We just knew that it was important to convert now instead of later to sustainable practices and by doing so, commit to a healthier way of living. Covid has and still brings great loss to so many across the globe. There are no adequate words to express the deep sorrow over so much loss. For our family, we said many times just how much we love each other. We took the isolation period as a time to recenter and be grateful for life. As caretakers of the land, there really was no other option for us but to focus on producing the best food possible for our family and others.

Pricing:

  • Organic U-Pick Apples are $3.75 per pound
  • Organic Berries are $6.00 per pint
  • Admission to farm & gardens is $5.00 per person

Contact Info:

  • Email: info@stonesoupfarmca.com
  • Website: www.stonesoupfarmca.com
  • Instagram: @stonesoupfarm_oakglen
  • Facebook: @StoneSoupFarmOakGlen

Image Credits
Credits to Stone Soup Farm & Heritage Orchard. These photos were taken by our talented team member Mallory. She is our farm’s photographer and Creative Support Lead.

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