EcoFarm instructors Elmarie Roberts

Haliburton Farm looks to put more farmers in Saanich fields

With a goal of putting more farmers into Saanich fields, the Halliburton Farm is launching its new EcoFarm School.




With a goal of putting more farmers into Saanich fields, the Haliburton Farm is launching its new EcoFarm School.

The intimate program is limited to 10 students and will take would-be farmers through a crop March to July cycle with time split between a desk and a field – but mostly in the field.

This Saturday (March 18) the instructors will be on hand for an open house so those interested can visit the site and explore that program.“We’re looking for youth who are coming out of high school or university and are interested in agriculture but don’t see an opportunity that appeals to them,” said Ann Eastman, EcoFarm school co-ordinator. “It’s the first go so we’re testing out the model as this will run from [late] March to July, and then it might run all year, or three of the four seasons.”

Adults are also invited to sign up. To start, the public are invited to Saturday’s EcoFarm Open House, from noon to 2 p.m. at the farm, 741 Haliburton Rd.

At $2,500, it’s a serious investment of time and resources but there are sponsors and bursaries available, Eastman said.

Since it started in 2002 Haliburton Farm’s non-profit parent, the Haliburton Community Organic Farm Society, has employed an educational mandate. As an “incubator”, Haliburton has provided mentorship and community to farmers learning to earn a living through certified organic farming.

“In Saanich most farmers are aging out, the average age is around 57,” Eastman said.

In fact, one Saanich study found only four people in 1,000 actively farm. Another four per cent of the farmers are under 35.

With local food production at risk, it led the thinkers at Haliburton to designing the school, which has been helped along by VanCity and the Victoria Foundation.

The EcoFarm School is the next step, Eastman said.

“It includes organic farming, ecological restoration and holistic nutrition to prepare a new generation of farmers for local farming careers.”

“There isn’t a lot of courses with the hands-on experience where you can pick up the technique and nuances.”

The farmers of all six Haliburton plots have pledged to contribute their time and expertise throughout the course, including Elmarie Roberts, who has alloted space from the plot for her students.

For more information visit haliburtonfarm.org, email ecofarmschool@gmail.com or call 250-886-1648.

reporter@saanichnews.com