It’s not often a butcher shop turns into a wedding venue, but this is precisely what the owners of Sunshine Ranch did.
“Our oldest daughter wanted to get married at home. At first, we were a little bit shocked, like what? So then, we cleaned out the barn, and after that wedding, we had friends of hers calling us,” recalled Silvia Laffer, who owns the ranch in Horsefly, B.C., with her husband, Franz.
Their son followed suit, along with two others from the community, which got the couple thinking.
“You know what, the barn is empty in the summer. Why don’t we do something like this? And I love it,” said Silvia.
Technically, the wedding venue is next door to the butcher shop, which they close in May to focus on the wedding season. They transform two massive barns into a beautiful and picturesque wedding venue, complete with chairs, linens, cutlery and decor.
The multifunctional ranch keeps Silvia busy, who does all the wedding catering. Meat and sausage mostly come from their ranch, and Silvia makes and cooks the remaining wedding food in their commercial kitchen, which includes salads, macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, desserts and more.
When asked how Silvia manages to do this all herself, she replied: “I start on Thursday, and I’m done by Saturday night.”
Sunshine Ranch has a permit to host up to 10 weddings a year, but Silvia says they usually have five to eight, which keeps her perfectly busy.
Along with the butcher shop and commercial kitchen, they also have coolers and a walk-in freezer, where you’ll find freshly baked organic bread. The baker, of course, is Silvia, who either buys organic flour or uses her own after they’ve turned their fields, grinding the flour herself.
During the 2017 wildfires that overwhelmed the Cariboo region, Silvia had a neighbour stop in, notifying her that there wasn’t any bread in the stores and they didn’t know when a delivery truck would come in.
“So I’m like, ‘You can have one of mine.’ I gave her that and then my husband said, ‘Hey, you have so much flour here. Why don’t you try to bake?’”
The couple made a sign, put it on the side of the road and before she knew it, she had an additional business.
“I had the business going and because my bread was in the freezer, people would walk into the walk-in freezer and then say, ‘Oh, you have bacon. You have burgers.’ So that’s how it started.”
Their butcher shop has a Farmgate Plus license, and they mainly focus on their sausages, which they have year-round, along with burgers and bread. Instead of their cows being auctioned off or shipped elsewhere, Sunshine Ranch processes the cows themselves. They also make raw dog food, available in limited supply, with their beef.
They’re a ranch that seems to do it all, with butchering throughout the fall and winter, calving in the spring, weddings in the summer, bread year-round and the daily maintenance of a cattle ranch.
Still, Silvia is mindful of finding downtime, noting she won’t pick up the phone before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
“We used to go out and [work] until 10 o’clock. Now, I take that time… but I have to say, I don’t need time to myself to decompress because I love what I do.
“This afternoon, I’ll go in my garden and sit there weeding. My husband said, ‘I don’t know how you can do this.’ And I said, ‘You know what? Sitting here weeding all that ugly grass in my garden is like yoga for me … I don’t have to think about my problems.”
The couple, originally from Switzerland, moved to Horsefly in 1993.
“We had a butcher shop in Switzerland and we needed a change. We decided we’d come here, and we’ve never regretted a minute.”
Thankfully, the couple’s family helps around the farm. Their four children have given the Laffer’s nine grandchildren, with three families living nearby and the fourth (who lives in Kelowna) helping as the designated mechanic in the summers. Next door, their son, Florian, and his wife, Minette, have pasture-raised pigs and grow and sell garlic.
“We see [our family] almost every day. They come here. They run with us. My life is absolutely fantastic.”
You can find Sunshine Ranch at facebook.com/sunshineranchnaturalbeef or sunshineranchweddings.com.