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Celebrating 40 years of Rancho Vignola: our history

July 29, 2020

We are very proud to announce that Rancho Vignola is celebrating 40 years in business this year! As part of our 40-year anniversary, we will be sharing stories from the Rancho Vignola team, the many farmers and suppliers we work with and more. There have been incredible changes over the years, and we are excited to share the next chapter with you. Today, Sue Vignola, one of Rancho Vignola’s founders, will share the story of how Rancho Vignola came to be, along with a brief history of the last four decades. 

Sunseed Natural Foods: The Beginning

Back in 1979, we (Richard and Sue Vignola) were running our store, Sunseed Natural Foods, in downtown Vernon. Both of us were vegetarians at the time and our passion for fresh, natural foods from reliable sources is initially what brought us together. Sunseed became the town’s central “food hub,” which many long-time Vernon residents still remember fondly!

One day by chance an elderly Mennonite man, Carl Isaac, came into the store hoping to sell a few boxes of nuts and dried fruit he’d picked up in California, after a visit to his son living in Modesto. One taste of those fresh new-crop almonds and walnuts and the most luscious dates we had ever tasted, and we were hooked! This meeting led to a partnership which endured for almost twenty years, until Carl’s death in 1999.

Starting in October of 1980, Richard and Carl would travel south, visiting farmers from Modesto down through the San Joaquin Valley, to desert country near Palm Springs where the dates grow. With the ability to sell more product through our store, Richard quickly added a trailer to the pickup load and tripled the amount we were able to bring back to Canada. The strong connections we established with some of those California farming families remain to this day, and helped to create part of our vision: “From the Farm to Your Community”!

On the Road Again

The Vignola family, circa 1982: Sue and Richard with children Natalia and Simon.

After we sold Sunseed, our family, which now included our young children Natalia and Simon, relocated first to Lake Country, and then Kelowna. We carried on with our seasonal “nutty” business each fall, but were constantly searching for temporary warehouse space up and down the Okanagan Valley. Office work was carried out in our home. After a few years in Kelowna, we both felt drawn back to Vernon, and found a house on a rural acreage, as well as more permanent warehouse space at a former fruit-packing plant.

The Rancho Vignola crew outside historic Forge Valley Storage.

We have great memories of that beautiful old building beside the railroad tracks in Vernon, with its thick wooden walls and fascinating history, and we spent almost a decade there. But eventually we outgrew this space too and, warehousing options in Vernon being in short supply, began looking further afield.

Hutterite women gather for the annual delivery of their fruit and nut order.
Customers flock to the Harvest Event at Paddlewheel Park Hall in Vernon, BC.

In 2006 our search brought us to Armstrong, where we found space in the former cheese plant. Moving into that building was a real milestone for us, with spacious offices and a lunch room, and more than adequate space for our increasing truckloads, equipment and supplies.

Putting Down Roots

This brings us to 2020 and another milestone! In January, our son Simon and his partner and spouse Indra, who have been running the business very efficiently for nearly a decade, took over ownership of Rancho Vignola. This momentous occasion, discussed for many years, means Richard and I now get to fully retire (well, more or less!).

We are so grateful for the customers who have supported our family business through all these years. And of course our loyal staff members, many of whom return each year to spend the fall season packaging and preparing shipments for us. Additionally, we salute our associates who operate Harvest Sales throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. We appreciate each and every person who has been involved with our business over these past 40 years!

Our twin passions of food and community have carried us full-circle from those days at Sunseed Natural Foods, and we are proud and deeply grateful to have been able to dedicate a huge part of our lives to a business we believe in so strongly. With Simon and Indra at the helm, who understand the importance of maintaining solid relationships with our farmers and suppliers, we forecast a continued bright future for the family business.

~ Sue Vignola

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