A Revelstoke farm turns exotic peppers into a spicy business
Bear Spray. The Grinch. Life’s a Peach. In a community renowned for its snowy slopes, these could be the names of local ski runs—but they’re not. Rather, they’re the names of hot sauces cooked up in Revelstoke by a couple who moved to the community partially to play in the cold, but who ended up focusing on the hot.
Sarah Harper and Stu Smith own Track Street Growers, a 1 ½-acre farm located a brief five-minute walk from the city’s downtown. Its specialty is exotic peppers like super hot ghosts, Carolina reapers, Trinidad Moruga scorpions and fatalii. The couple then combines these peppers with other homegrown items—including tomatoes, onions, garlic and tomatillos—to create a range of flavours for its Stoke the Fire Hot Sauce, along with garlic syrups and spicy seasonings.
Until recently, only people who visited the Revelstoke farmers market each summer could enjoy these products. This has now changed, with help from the Trust’s Basin Business Advisors (BBA). This program provides free, one-to-one, confidential business counselling and assessment services to businesses, including those focused on agriculture.
For Stoke the Fire, the process with BBA “completely transformed the business,” Harper says. “It has blossomed. It’s very exciting.”
How’d they get into farming and sauces? “We started basically feeding ourselves 10 years ago,” Harper says. They soon committed to help bolster food security in the community. They began to host the Revelstoke Garlic Festival. The business then expanded into creating products like hot sauces for the local market.
“But coming from this background—hands in the dirt, making festivals—the business end of things was not in our skill set, really,” Harper says.
Working with the BBA’s agriculture advisor has helped rectify this. For one, the couple is now getting a grip on their costs of production. This helps them have “confidence that we’re meeting the market in a place that the market can bear, but that is also going to generate revenue for our business.”
Another huge focus has been getting the sauces into stores, including a recent big win: Nelson’s Kootenay Co-op. “There’s a whole realm of know-hows that I wasn’t aware of,” says Harper, mentioning how tricky it is even to create shelf-ready labels for products, complete with bar codes. “I’ve been on quite a learning curve and the program has really connected those dots for me along the way.”
The business is also gearing up for the Basin Food & Buyers Expo, taking place this week. There, it hopes to make new connections and secure new retail partnerships. To help it and other food businesses prepare for this event, BBA has already offered a series of workshops, including ones focused on product photography and social media.
“We’re fine-tuning all of our outward appearances, which has been very useful,” Harper says. “I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks.”
Future retail success doesn’t mean their products will disappear from the Revelstoke farmers’ market, however. “Not just as product producers, but as farmers and people who really believe in the local food movement, the farmers market is the place to be,” Harper says.
With the help of BBA, “the bar has been set for the year,” Harper says. “Our work now is to meet that bar and exceed that bar.”
This means that Bear Spray or The Grinch may soon be in a store near you.