Ulli Vogler doesn’t consider herself an extremist when it comes to living off the land, but the first thing she packed during the 2017 wildfires was her flower and vegetable seeds.
The owner of Sunflower Catering in Lac La Hache is well known around the South Cariboo community for her homegrown organic veggies, which she sells at the Heritage Market at the 108 Heritage site, along with healthy treats and preserves like Sunflower tea, jams and pickles.
“It’s just fascinating. You have this tiny little seed and after a few weeks or months you have this plant,” Vogler, 60, said. “Everything I sell at the market pretty much comes out of my garden.”
What she doesn’t grow, Vogler trades her goods with friends and neighbours, getting apricots from Ashcroft, for instance. She and her husband Peter also swap their beef for chicken with their neighbour.
It’s a life Vogler appreciates – not just the homegrown food, but the sharing and socialization. Born and raised in Germany, Vogler fell in love with the big sky and wide open spaces of the South Cariboo when she first came here in 1985. That summer she met her then-to-be husband Peter, and after briefly living in Switzerland, they settled here, running the Ten-ee-ah Lodge Wilderness Resort at Sprout Lake and a team of sled dogs for 12 years.
The couple and their two children later moved to an acreage on the south side of Lac La Hache, where Vogler has a massive garden, growing everything from her signature sunflowers and all sorts of vegetables under the sun to raspberries, strawberries, Haskup berries, red currants and four apple trees.
Although she currently works part-time doing the books at Country Prime Meats, Vogler said she plans to retire this year so she can spend more time on the land. On the side, she volunteers for the Heritage Market, having acted as president and treasurer over the years. Giving back, she said, is hugely important to her because she has received so much from the South Cariboo communities over the years.
“I need to be busy,” she said. “I just love it. I love people, I love to know why they come here. Being part of the Heritage site is amazing, I really enjoy it.”
Vogler said the South Cariboo never disappoints. When she visits her family – she has a daughter in Fernie and a son in Kamloops – she is excited to return home. She loves the old buildings and their history, but mostly the people and how everyone supports one another.
“There’s just something about this area,” she said. “It’s peaceful and relaxing, it just gives you balance.”