Under the guidance of husband and wife Patricia Schneider & David Owers, Tuscan Farm Gardens has embarked on yet another phase in its long and wonderful history.
Enjoy this look back at where it all began!
Part 1 1994
Chapter 1: Just Two Crazy People
When people visited the farm, the first thing they say is, “We didn’t know a place this beautiful and peaceful existed.”
I know the feeling, because we didn’t either! You see, when my husband retired at 48, we thought heaven would be a condo by the water in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. And for a time, it was.
However, while living in the city, both Arleigh and I got this incredible urge to play in the dirt. About the same time, I became interested in my health and wanted to learn about herbs. The apothecary shop I frequented seemed like such a mysterious place with bottles of tinctures and jars of dried herbs lining the shelves. I wanted to grow them in my own garden. This thought seemed wild to me as I had never gardened before and the only plant I could identify was a geranium (and then I was to find out that a geranium really isn’t a geranium after all!) I wanted to know more about the herbs that were prescribed to me.
My idea of playing in the dirt wasn’t quite the same as Arleigh’s. I thought we would rip out all the geraniums and tulips on our patio deck and replace them with herbs. Well, Arleigh had a different idea. He bought an 80 acre chunk of land in the heart of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, one of the world’s most fertile growing regions.
The land is a natural beauty with forested timber, ravines and glacier fed natural spring water bubbling from the ground making jade green ponds.
So he carved out a road that would lead to our new home, Tuscan Tulips built a fence and lined it with, you guessed it, tulips that when spring came, spelled my initials. While the house was under construction I spent the summer weeding the tulips, planting more geraniums and planning my first herb garden.
Every herb sounded so fascinating, I couldn’t decide which ones to plant so I purchased about 150 seed packages but didn’t have faith they would grow so come spring, I bought another 150 plants in 4" pots. We read books and visited other gardens.
Our conversations were garden oriented. When our children came home to visit, if as in the past, they wanted to talk about their problems, this time we just said, “If this isn’t about flowers, we’re not talking.”
You might say, we became obsessed. But it felt good.
Every morning brought a new plan.
What about a trellis to take us to the “back 40”? These roses need a home of their own. What about a Secret Garden?
There are too many herbs in the original herb garden. What about a potager?
A Tea garden? Medicinal garden? We discovered that once established, some herbs need very little water. We put them together in a Mediterranean Garden.
We needed something to brighten a spot around a group of Cedar trees. That would be the Moon Garden. A rose garden too.
Because we missed the water view from our condo, I suggested a river of lavender to flow through a certain place Lavender Bridge… he planted an ocean instead.
Now we were really out of control. We made the decision to plant a field of echinacea.
It’s pretty and it’s one of the leading herbs known to enhance the immune system. At that time, we made the transition from gardener to farmer. I might add at this point that our friends thought we were wacko and our children hoped we would soon get over this madness. It wasn’t to be.
Something had to be done to get the farm and garden equipment under cover. We would build a barn.
Not just any barn but one that would look like a Mediterranean farmhouse on the outside. As it went up, we could see it was going to be a fabulous building.
Maybe we should have a Bed & Breakfast upstairs?
I begin to learn about the herbs I’m growing. A Shop in the Farmhouse for product made on the farm?
Echinacea now flourishes in a garden setting, Cutting Garden surrounded by natural forest and walking trails
Organically grown and thanks to brothers, sister, and nieces our echinacea is nurtured through out the year by caring hands to ensure the highest quality product. family helpOur crop is watered with glacier fed natural spring water, hand weeded and hand harvested at optimal potency and extracted and bottled on site to guarantee quality control.
Our echinacea crop is very labor intense but it is a labor of love.
It’s true that in the beginning we had no farming experience or herbal knowledge, but after being married to the same man for over 40 years, when you love something you soon learn how to care for it and how to make it happy.
The ocean of lavender soon needed to be harvested. What would I do with all this lavender?? We started by trying to sell bunches; no one wanted it! Creativity set in again. Sachets, pillows, tea. Body care products soon followed.
Chapter2… A Monet Bridge too!
At this time, I had the misconceived notion that a garden could be complete. I begged Arleigh not to make any more gardens. He said okay, but several days later, I heard that familiar sound of an excavator. I thought it was coming from miles away. I was wrong. I walked through the ravine and to my amazement was a 3 acre water garden in the making. I was shocked. And very angry! There was no going back, so I said, Okay, if you’re going to make a water garden then you may as well make a Monet Bridge. So he did. Wild flowers came next, then a fields of poppies, a mowed path to the beaver ponds.
Arleigh decided to use all the stones he’d been saving. What about a stone house?
A gazebo where we can have a cup of tea amongst the fields of echinacea and lavender. A pergola covered in wisteria and clematis wisteria pergola to talk through to the house, cherry tree lined path to the back 40, a cherry tree lined walkway under planted with ornamental grasses, a cutting garden?…
Chapter 3: A New Farmhouse
Well it all started with toilets. No, that’s not right; it was when we made plans to go back to Tuscany. Reality set in, we knew we couldn’t build new toilets AND go to Tuscany, so the family has dubbed this project: “Toilets for Tuscany”. So if we are going to build new toilets, (you know, foundation, roof, electricity, water) we may as well add a bit more to the toilets and make a room for processing our farm products, and what about an area for those corporate meetings, special birthdays, and wedding ceremonies people are asking for?
And what about a bistro for those hungry folks who arrive a lunch time?
bistro entrance first shop bistro lh bistro
And we really do need more storage space so what about a basement too? It just means digging down a bit deeper; the roof is all the same. It kind of all made sense so here we go again. And not only that, if we went to Tuscany, it would be all over in a few weeks. Just think of all the pleasure we will have in years to come that we have outside toilets that flush!! No more complaining about those Johnny on the Spots during Lavender Fair and the Echinacea Blooming events!!
Part 2 2006
Chapter 1… Something’s Gotta Give…
Back in 1994 when we bought this 80 acre piece of wilderness, we sure didn’t have a clue where the garden path would take us. It was never our plan to start another business, never mind four of them. Tuscan Farm Gardens has experienced a measure of success because each component has worked to further the success of the other.(We definitely couldn’t have planned it this well!)
Beautiful farm crops, lavender and echinacea, attracted visitors who needed something to eat when they arrived because it took them so long to find us. Visitors wanted to stay overnight to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The first year we were able to harvest our echinacea crop, after all the dust settled, we profited 89.00! No kidding! Selling raw product was not going to be an option. On-site processing lead to an on-site Apothecary Shop. The more people came to the farm, the more ideas they brought. Can we have a corporate meeting here? Can we get married here? The ideas were endless. Our family felt stretched in many directions. As the old saying goes…something’s gotta give…
It is with regret that we must inform our many friends and business acquaintances that the family property has been sold. We want to thank you from the bottom of all our hearts for your support and encouragement over the last 9 years that we have been open to the public. These have been the best years of our lives sharing and working with others towards agritourism awareness. It has given us the privilege of meeting many wonderful people who have become dear to us.
At this time our family has decided to refocus our efforts from operating a bistro, bed & breakfast and open garden towards expanding our line of plant based body care products. We are relocating to a new site where we will further our commitment to organic farming, create healing herb gardens and channel our energies in research and development. Until our herb gardens are established, we will continue to harvest from the original estate.
As you can image this is one of the hardest decisions Arleigh and I have ever made. This land is our love our baby. From the gardens meandering around the lavender fields, through the ravine along the west coast native trails to the beaver ponds, here lays our blood, sweat and tears. On a positive note, we are very, very happy with the family who has purchased our property. It will remain a family estate, private, but closed to the public.
2006 – 2007
We have let go and are looking forward to the next chapter in our lives. For the interim, while we are rebuilding, home will be on what I call a friendly “Leave it to Beaver” street in a beautiful Langley subdivision. My goal, before we leave is to persuade everyone on our street to plant huge clumps of echinacea. (I know where I can get a lot!) In the spring, what about Cherry Trees, they’re pretty too….
“What’s In A Name”
Many of you have asked why we named our farm Tuscan Farm Gardens.
No we are not Italian. The closest we have ever come to being Italian was when,in his other life Arleigh had many wonderful Italian men working for him.
We were invited to many (move over Tony and Tina!) Italian weddings. But best of all they told us, ‘You must go to Tuscany’.
So we did. Later we retired and moved to the country to garden.
But one day we realized we were not just gardening but farming too and we needed a name.
So what about Tuscan Farm Gardens? Didn’t we feel good in Tuscany