The Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association organized what I believe was the first annual (?) Tour of Farms on Sunday. Farms across the Saanich Penninsula, the Cowichan Valley, and Parksville opened their properties for folks interested in following the self-guided tour and finding out more about where their food comes from.
We visited 3 farms: Code’s Corner Farm, S.O.L Farm, and Valhalla Farm Herbs ‘n’ Things. These were the 3 that are doing mixed vegetables and some livestock, the small, organic mixed model that I’m most interested in, as opposed to the cidery, the lavender farm, etc.
Valhalla I had heard about before; turns out they have been around almost 20 years! They have had a supplementary herb business while commuting to Victoria for their off-farm jobs. This is their first year doing veggies for even themselves! They had a lovely spot where they had put in some lasagne garden beds that were thriving. In a great model, they had also made some bed space available to some friends and neighbours. Such an interesting twist on the community garden or even the CSA–your own bed, rather than just coming to pick up some food.
Code’s Corner Farm and S.O.L (Small, Organic, and Local) Farm had some interesting parallels. They are both new farms–established within the last 3-6 years. All of the owners are also new to farming, and they are not spring chickens! These were men and women who had developed professional careers, and are now farming as a major life change. The owners of SOL had been organic home gardeners for many years, but had no other farming background. Dr. Code’s life changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with MS, and that journey has led him to organic farming as a new career.
I was amazed at the changes in direction that life had taken for both these families. It was a great reminder that life is not about making firm decisions that set your path for years to come, but instead about following your heart wherever it leads and being open and flexible.
I was also struck, though, once again, by how many brand new farmers we have on the island, folks who are learning from the ground up. And because they want to farm in organic and unconventional ways, they are not always looking to their community elders for guidance. I wonder about that relationship between old and new. Is there a gap? Conflict? Or are all farmers constantly learning and looking for ways to do things better?
The other glaring observation? My fellow tour-goers. The tours were busy. And there were seniors–perhaps past farmers, perhaps just passionate gardeners–asking questions and looking curiously around them, but mostly it was young couples with long hair and and pale skin looking intently at the raised beds and heritage livestock and buying up the produce for sale. Two very distinct groups. Interesting to see them coming together at this time, in these places.
Our photos didn’t turn out that well on this very bright, sunny day, but I’ll leave you with one adorable wee turkelet…