SunLife Farm & Ranch — Plants Knowledge with a Bit of Whimsy

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(Amy and Jeff Fox | Photo courtesy of SunLife Farm & Ranch)

Jeff and Amy Fox are quite OK with being known as the bee ranchers on the purple farm in Prineville.

Especially since they have played a large part in creating the buzz about their business, SunLife Farm and Ranch, a small developing farm with beautiful vistas and naturally pristine terrain.

On their website, Jeff and Amy wrote that Prineville is known as the official Cowboy Capital of Oregon. “We added our CowBees to that affiliation,” they wrote. “They’re affectionately known as BootahBees and are abundant on the farm.”

BootahBees, Beeverly Hills, Soilebration and Lavenday are a few hints to Jeff and Amy’s whimsical approach to create an inviting place for guests to learn about their mission to be stewards of their land and its inhabitants. “We want SunLife Farm and Ranch to offer diverse farming, education and event-driven experiences,” Jeff said.

In January 2020, they purchased the 160-acres with views of the Ochoco and Cascade Mountains. “We have lived in a lot of different places during our 26 years together,” Jeff said. “Our decision to relocate to Prineville was catalyzed by the need to move to a climate conducive to health reasons. Knowing that, and seeking a rural way of life, it was a natural fit to return to Oregon.”

Jeff grew up in the Willamette Valley, from a generation of South Dakota farmers and parents in large scale dam construction. His knowledge of fostering community as a business owner, developer and organizational leader came full circle in Central Oregon where he began to serve on the board of directors for the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance, Crooked River Open Pastures and the Crook County Prineville Chamber of Commerce. He is a steering committee member for Travel Oregon’s Food Trail initiative.

Amy was raised in the Northeast with a deep appreciation for animals and open spaces. She has a history of large and small project development success and has always been environmentally minded and conservation oriented. She attended agricultural schools for Environmental and Biological Sciences, participated in AmeriCorps and programs for wildlife and sustainability, watershed education and exotic and domestic animal education.

“Our vision was to bring together past energy from both our work, lives and personal interests into some expression that becomes SunLife Farm and Ranch, and to share the output of that effort,” Amy said.

The 55 irrigated acre land was fallow for a few years before they arrived. Despite the work before them to revitalize the land, they were determined to create a farm and ranch that “would speak to everything dear to us by cultivating crops that feed horses, stock, wildlife and provide natural foods.”

Working with experts and local farmers, they have planted orchard grass hay and 10,000 lavender plants of multiple varieties, and they have cultivated 19 bee colonies that generate honey. They plan to build greenhouses for future agricultural endeavors. “Our farm and ranch provide a bit of whimsy, relaxation, restoration and inspiration while traversing the farm’s sun dirt roads,” Amy said.

SunLife Farm and Ranch is a place to slow down to gaze at Ochoco Mountains, enjoy lush green fields, delight in the aromas of lavender and native sage and explore the trails leading to beehives, Ponderosa pines, lavender fields and vistas.

What they enjoy about their new adventure is they have learned that there is “never a day where you don’t learn something on a farm!” “Education for ourselves is a labor of love and tied to the land, the wildlife, the natural ecosystem and the resources we utilize here,” Amy shared. “Jeff is our beekeeper, mentored by an expert in the field, Naomi Price. Recently, SunLife has begun to create an eBird checklist.”

SunLife is also pleased to contribute to the education of others. In late June, the farm will host USDA/NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) professionals, including its conservation planners. They will visit SunLife as part of their onboard training for inventory protocols for cropland and pasture.

The Bee Ranch

Jeff and Amy have developed a natural apiary habitat not often found in the world of beekeeping. With more than 20 miles of trail options meandering throughout the ranch portion of SunLife, their 19 bee colonies reside in “neighborhoods” including Beeverly Hills, The BeeBurbs, The Bootdocks and Grassic Park and can be seen from observation viewpoints along the trail system.

While the names of neighborhoods are funny, Jeff and Amy are serious about the importance of beekeeping. Bees account for 1/3 of the food people consume. Einstein theorized humans would not exist without bees.

What started as a passion became an obsession as we ventured into the world of beekeeping,” they wrote on their website. “The world’s bee population is headed toward trouble. We believed SunLife Farm and Ranch could harbor and care for them by developing a world to safely accommodate their intricate life work while creating a local food source.”

Events

The Foxes are hosting eight events this year with the goal to provide a pathway for people to learn more about farming and ranching in Central Oregon. “We know firsthand that experience and experiential learning stimulate creativity, wonder and curiosity,” Jeff said. “This year, our agritourism event schedule includes eight themed events devoted to sharing the farm experience with interested community or visitors.

“Agritourism helps cultivate awareness about the crucial connection agriculture has to the world’s well-being,” he said, adding there will be experts at each event to share their scientific knowledge.

The events are:

  • Hay, Hike & Hammock, June 18. Guests are welcome to explore the farm trails, rest in a hammock and experience their orchard grass field production.
  • LavenDay, July 16 and 17. It’s U-pick lavender season. Enjoy the farm, potted lavender plants and cut lavender bouquets to take home.
  • Dirt Day, August 13. It’s a soilebration to learn about the soils of Central Oregon from many experts. NRCS will co-host.
  • High Noon Honey, August 27. Learn about the Bootahbees on the Birds and Bees Trail Tour. SunLife Tea and Honey at noon along with other goodies from our farm and local friends.
  • Roaming Day – Art to Soul, September 10. Roam around the farm to learn about its crops, do some art, relax in a hammock haven at the Bootdocks and beyond.
  • Grassic Park Day, September 24. Straight through Dasher’s Canyon, you’ll hike out to Grassic Park. Experience an animal petting experience while learning about all the animals both wild and domestic that feed from Central Oregon grasses both native and cultivated.
  • Run for the Honey, Pumpkin, October 8. The Run for the Honey features a 5K race and one-mile fun run/walks.
  • Honey Holiday and Claus Festival, December 3 and 4. Featuring farm products, vendors for early shopping, hot drinks, food, games and hikes up to the Pacific North Pole and the Santa Claus Haus.

SunLife Farm & Ranch

Owners Amy and Jeff Fox
1607 NW Gerke Road in Prineville
Call: 541-636-9909 (office) or 646-243-8628 (cell)
Open June-December by appointment
Visit sunlifefarm.com for additional information.

sunlifefarm.com

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