Soleil Hutchinson has been named the 2021 winner of the PEI Women's Institute "Woman in Agriculture Award.”
Hutchinson is an organic mixed vegetable farmer and shares her skills with Islanders through multiple projects and organizations such as CHANCES, the PEI Association for Newcomers, and the Wild Child Forest School project of the PEI Sierra Club. Her vegetables are available at various Island stores, including Soleil Farm in Bonshaw.
After completing an organic farming apprenticeship, Hutchinson has brought innovative ideas to help widen access to local food such as “Plate It”, a catering initiative connecting Island restaurants and producers. With her co-operative community sponsored agriculture (CSA) programs, she has also connected residents to local seasonal produce, breads and other PEI foods.
The Woman in Agriculture Award is recognition for an Island woman making a major contribution to the PEI agriculture sector and is presented bi-annually by the PEI Women’s Institute.
"I chose the crazy, unpredictable life of a farmer because, above all else, I believe in the power and beauty of community," Soleil notes on her company website, Soleil Farm. "I believe that together, a community of committed farmers and eaters can create a better food system, where we can all celebrate and enjoy good food."
After apprenticing on a mixed-vegetable farm in Portland, Oregon for two years, she returned to PEI to be close to her family and started a ¼ acre mix vegetable farm. Soleil said. "Over the next 10 years, I learned the ins and outs of the Island’s climate and soil (often through trial and error!) and developed great relationships with local chefs that wanted to treat their customers to the freshest produce possible."
In addition to partnering with other farmers to supply local restaurants, Soleil has been offering a Winter Food Basket (similar to a CSA-style box) since 2015 to provide Islanders with access to local, organic food during a time of year that it’s typically harder to source food locally. That success led to the creation of a summer food basket three years later.
"Through this new adventure, I discovered that I LOVE connecting directly with the people that have chosen to support our farmer collective," Soleil notes on her website. "Our community of farmers and eaters has grown with each year that’s passed, and I continue to dream up myriad ways to bring everyone together for celebrations on the farm and beyond."
This award recognizing an Island woman making a major contribution to the PEI agriculture industry within the last five years. The award is given in the form of a plaque and a framed photo which is prominently displayed on the fifth floor of the Department of Agriculture and Land. Past winners include Heather Best, Edith Ling, Mary Robinson and Jessica Reeves.