Cawston-based hot sauce company ready to grow their business and the agricultural community

Hot biz with big dreams

Casey Richardson

A homegrown hot sauce and pepper company now based in Cawston is busy planting 3000 seedlings into their farmland, with a goal of getting their brand across Canada.

Stoke the Fire is owned and operated by partners in life and business, Stu Smith and Sarah "The Sauceress" Harper.

The couple moved to the Similkameen just a few months ago.

“We've been focusing on growing the peppers that we can't buy out in the open market. So we grow the very specialty ones and then we access a lot of our local farm networks for your habaneros, your jalapenos, Serrano's, those kind of more common peppers that are already being cultivated,” Smith said.

They look to support the local farming community by buying the produce they don’t grow themselves to use in their sauces.

Starting up in Revelstoke from a basic backyard garden operation into an urban farm and small-batch sauce-bottling venture, the couple was ready to expand to new land and keep growing their business and their plant production.

The pair grows 45 varieties of peppers, spread across their farmland, greenhouse and garden beds.

Smith said growing peppers in Revelstoke was a challenge, and now it’s time to figure out the valley.

“With temperatures in Revelstoke, I was always trying to increase our temperatures here. Now, we're trying to moderate the temperatures here, especially in the greenhouse capacity set up. So we've got our shade cloth overtop, we're using a white landscape fabric,” he added.

“[There's] different pests that we're dealing with, like we don't have a lot of grasshoppers in Revelstoke. So, there will be challenges as far as just like organic pest control.”

He said moving into such an agricultural area has been a welcome change, with a large network of local farmer knowledge to tap into.

“I've been growing, 20 plus years, honing a skill set with that, and coming in here you're stepping into generations of that kind of knowledge,” Smith said.

“So having that knowledge of really, highly skilled organic growers in the valley has been a great asset and really exciting to see, like the knowledge that can be gained over the years here. So coming in with kind of that open minded attitude that there's a lot to be learned.”

With many South Okanagan-Similkameen fruit farmers and grape growers expecting a tougher-than-usual year, Smith said he’s glad to be able to bring some work locally.

“Coming to the valley in a time where you're actually bringing some employment to the area is really rewarding than opposed to just coming in and asking something from the community,” he added.

“We've actually had some local neighbours here who have happily taken on some work with us and being able to hire some local workers who would normally be thinning stone fruit crop right now they're able to come in here and help us get some peppers in the ground.”

While their bottles are sold at farmers' markets and on retail shelves all over British Columbia, the couple is hoping to expand much further.

“The goal here is to scale the business to the point that we can then confidently walk into that larger arena and take our brand, our a little spicy love story across the country,” Smith added.

In the future, the farm hopes to sell some seedlings or pepper starts to the locals too.

“Once we get our feet underneath us and get ourselves up and running, be able to work towards being one of Western Canada's largest specialty pepper producers.”

Stoke the Fire is now a part of the Penticton Farmers’ Market and the Osoyoos Market and they are still on shelves and online.

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