To my mind, one of the best parts of the spring season is going around and visiting local farms, checking out the fields full of new frolicking babies and their mums! This past week I’ve taken the time to get out and lean over a few farm fences, in both North Saanich and Central Saanich, watching little calves and lambs exploring their world and enjoying the sunshine. It got me thinking about the abundance of farmland in southern Vancouver Island, so that’s the theme of this post (along with featuring some of the ridiculously adorable babies I met!).
Agriculture on the Peninsula
The Saanich Peninsula is one of the oldest agricultural settlements in British Columbia, and is a vibrant region for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and a full range of agricultural products. Although not without their challenges, there are several pieces of legislation in place to protect the peninsula’s farmland – the Urban Containment Boundary, for example, was established to protect Saanich farmland from development, and aims to regulate residential development and preserve 52% of Saanich as ‘rural land’. Similarly, at the provincial level nearly 20% of Saanich has been designated as ‘Agricultural Land Reserve’ and approximately 380 properties have farm status. If you’re interested, you can click here for a map of these areas to see the distribution of farmland in the area.
Finding Local Farms
If you’re interested in heading out for an afternoon to a local farm to discover what’s growing in their fields, there’s a fantastic listing of farms in the area at Island Farm Fresh.
They’ve got a listing of over 75 local farms, and you can click on each individual farm name to find out more information – this includes the farm’s contact information and the products and services offered at the farm, as well as photos and a Google map of the farm’s location. It makes finding local produce (and adorable baby farm animals!) a piece of cake. Some of the farms, like Parry Bay Sheep Farm, even have ‘open barn days’ for their lambing and sheep-shearing events!
Farm Tours and Special Events
Perhaps organized events and visits appeal to you more than spontaneous afternoon jaunts? If so, there are many opportunities in the spring and summer to get to know your local farmers. Some of the most popular events include the ‘Tour of Farms’ sponsored by the Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association each year in July, and the ‘North Saanich Flavour Trail’ organized by the District of North Saanich in August. In the fall, end-of-season Harvest Feasts abound, as each district welcomes their residents to share in the variety of locally grown agricultural goodies that we are able to produce here on southern Vancouver Island (everything from tomatoes and spinach to watermelon and kiwifruit, in case you’re curious!).
Local Agricultural Organizations
There are a number of different farm and agriculture organizations in the Greater Victoria area, helping to support farmers and agriculture in the region. For example, the Peninsula Agricultural Commission‘s mandate includes enhancing the sustainability of the agricultural land base and fostering stewardship of farm land.
From a different angle, non-profit organizations like the Lifecycles Project Society focus on cultivating awareness and initiating action around food, health, and urban sustainability. They offer valuable resources such as their Urban Agricultural Hub, an online forum to connect locals to the resources and information to learn more about farming in the city and surrounding areas. Several years ago I completed a season-long Organic Gardening Internship through Lifecycles – they’re a great resource and support network for beginning and established farmers alike, as well as for local residents looking to establish a stronger connection to their food supply.
Get Out and Enjoy a Slice of Rural Life!
Sometimes as we spend time in and around our urban centres, or look to escape in our free time to wild forested or marine areas, we forget about the charm and interest of the local farming regions. Next time you’re planning an outdoor adventure, try taking the time to explore some of the rich agricultural areas around Greater Victoria, including much of the Peninsula and Mount Newton Valley, Metchosin, the Highlands, and North Saanich. In doing so, you might find a great new source of fresh veggies, learn more about animal husbandry and get the chance to feel some sheep fleece up close and personal (with the farmer’s permission, of course!) or discover some of the more unusual agricultural enterprises we have in the area, like lavender farms and meaderies.
Do you have any favourite farms to visit in the area? If so, please share them with me in the comments below – I’d love to check them out!
More Heart of the West Coast:
Spring Feast for the Eyes: Chocolate Lilies
A Tale of Mice and ‘Fir’ Trees