When Doug and Janet Schaufler began farming as an experiment of sorts in 2001, they couldn’t have expected that a simple attempt to grow their own vegetables would turn into a full-fledged business endeavor focused around a very niche product — vegetable oils.
Discovering that they were quite good at growing enough vegetables to feed their own family and more, they started a small CSA with about five members before joining the now-defunct Lemont Farmers Market. After selling there for a few years, Janet left her job as a school psychologist to care for her ill father and focus a little more on the business aspect of farming. When someone mentioned the idea of vegetable oils, Doug just so happened to be working on related research at Penn State, in agriculture engineering. The coincidence seemed too good to be true.
“Doug thought that was a great idea,” Janet said. “He had the expertise to add to my time I had to (work on) the oils and that’s how we began doing vegetable oils. We did roasted pumpkin seed, canola and sunflower.”
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Now you can find the family, under their official brand name — Schauflers’ Wild Blumen Farm — at the Pine Grove Mills Farmers Market and their products on the Friends and Farmers Online Market and at Way Fruit Farm. To their knowledge, the Schauflers’ Gatesburg farm is the only one in the area that produces its own oils.
“We’ve been processing our seeds for the oil in the winter, which works out well because we’re not busy with the gardens then,” Janet said. “The seeds aren’t ready until late fall anyway. In the winter, I have (a space) that’s a licensed limited food establishment. I press the oils and now bottle it there.”
The time-consuming and hands-on work is most seen in the roasted pumpkin seed oil, which requires extracting the seeds from the pumpkins once they’re harvested, roasting them and then pressing them into oil.
It was learning to balance this intensive work alongside careers of their own and a family with five children that the couple says was one of the most surprising challenges, alongside learning the business aspect of farming. This is also one of the main things they say comes up in conversation when discussing their business with other locals interested in farming.
However, it’s all worth it when the Schaufflers get the chance to educate and introduce the public to the real taste of fresh, non-deodorized and non-bleached seed oils.
“What I most enjoy is just when people try our oil and the delight on their faces when they’re so surprised at how fresh it tastes,” Janet said. “The canola we make is nothing like what you’d find in the store — people are surprised. With the sunflower seed oil, people say, ‘oh, it actually tastes like sunflowers.’ ”
Over the next leg of their farming journey, the Schaufflers hope to continue their transition from purchasing canola and sunflower seeds locally to growing their own. Doug explained that they’ve always grown their own pumpkins for the pumpkin seed oil — different from the traditional orange Halloween pumpkins, he says, but rather a variety grown for the hull-less, edible seeds — but they just recently planted a half acre of sunflowers. Once they have that down, they’d like to look into growing other seed crops for oils, such as safflower oil and black seed oil.
Beyond their niche product, Schauflers’ Wild Blumen Farm also offers an array of vegetables including carrots, potatoes, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers, as well as poultry like chickens and turkeys. In addition to appearing at Pine Grove Mills Farmers Market, Way Fruit Farm and on the Friends and Farmers Online page, they also conduct transactions out of their home as needed.