Soltane Orchard is part of Camphill Soltane located in Western Chester County, Pennsylvania near Ludwig’s Corner. Camphill Soltane is one of four Camphill Communities in Chester County including: Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, Beaver Run Special School (K-12), and Beaver Farm. The first Camphill was founded in Scotland and has created community with and for people with developmental differences for over seventy years. Kimberton Whole Foods has had a long relationship with Camphill Communities and we’re happy to offer their products on our shelves.
Camphill Soltane was founded in 1988 with a focus on young people transitioning from school to adult life. A 2-acre orchard formed the basis for practical work. In 2013, they began replanting and renewing the orchard of 140 trees with a trellis system using much smaller and easier to manage dwarf trees. Their inspiration comes from Dr. Rudolf Stiener and Dr. Karl Koenig and they apply their approaches to human development and land
care, including curative therapies, youth guidance, social therapy, and biodynamics. Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition developed in the 1920’s by Steiner.
Soltane Orchard is run by Agricultural Director, Mason Vollmer. We asked him a few questions about the orchard and the process behind their handmade products.
How was your growing season this fall?
Apple growers throughout our region experienced a bumper crop in the fall of 2015 and we are delighted to expand our distribution with all our Kimberton Whole Foods friends. Soltane Orchard produces small batches of seasonal products, including apple sauce, cider, a mixed berry all natural fruit spread, and apple butter. These products are 100% Soltane grown fruit and just fruit: no sugar added.
What types of challenges did you face growing organic fruit in this region?
We’ve learned to live with a diversity of insect pests. Since most of our apples are for processing fruit, variations in skin appearance does not matter. It is challenging to consistently produce a Grade A apple, but we are not set up to handle, sort, and pack fresh fruit anyway. Our fruit goes into apple sauce, apple butter, and apple cider.
After picking the fruit from the orchard, where does it go to be processed?
Behind our small crew, is a local custom processing plant: Bauman’s Family Apple Butter. They cook, process and pack our fruit products, as they do for dozens of local small farms, many of whom you would recognize. Using old family recipes and techniques they transform fruit into concentrated spreads much like bees transform nectar into honey by concentrating nature’s sweetness by gently driving off the water.
Their process for apple butter describes it all. They start by pressing cider from fresh apples, bringing this to a boil, using steam delivered through copper coils, then add a small amount of cooking apples, which burst in the heat. Then simmer and screen out all the particulate. This concentrated apple butter does not need refrigeration to keep, since like honey, figs, or raisins, the natural sugars prevent mold through osmotic pressure. If water were added, than molds could grow. This was the old fashioned way for preserving fruits: drying and cooking. The term ‘butter’ refers to the smooth texture of the fruit spread.
At Camphill Soltane, what’s the preferred way to eat fruit butter?
We think of apple butter as ‘apple-honey’ and enjoy it spread on toast. You can also use it in apple crumb cake, similar to a chocolate swirl cake only apple.
What other products does Soltane Orchard produce?
We also produce small amounts of maple syrup, herb tea, beeswax candles, salsa, ketchup, and marinara sauce which can be found at Soltane Bridges Cafe & Bakery and The Soltane Store both located in downtown Phoenixville.
What plans does Soltane Orchard have for the future?
We will break ground on a new horticultural facility with greenhouse, work areas, and storage.