Robin Tunnicliffe of Sea Bluff Farm sells her produce at numerous farmers markets, through a food box program run via Saanich Organics, and operates a farm stand twice a week. (Kendra Wong/Black Press)

Robin Tunnicliffe of Sea Bluff Farm sells her produce at numerous farmers markets, through a food box program run via Saanich Organics, and operates a farm stand twice a week. (Kendra Wong/Black Press)

Growing the South Island: Robin Tunnicliffe, Sea Bluff Farm

She comes from a tight knit farming community, where farmers learned about best practices at work parties

This is the second story in a six-part series chronicling farming on the South Island ahead of the 150th anniversary of the Saanich Fair. We talked to farmers both old and young, and asked them what has changed over the years and what makes them who they are today.

Check back each morning and afternoon for new stories between Aug. 29-31.

Part 1: Erin Bett, Fierce Love Farm

——————

The landscape of farming is changing, resulting in a busier and sometimes more competitive marketplace, says one Metchosin farmer.

Robin Tunnicliffe has been in the organic farming community since she started her apprenticeship more than 25 years ago. Coming from a tight knit farming community, one in which farmers learned about best farming practices at work parties and met others with similar goals and interests at local farmers’ markets.

But in recent years, things have changed.

“Today we’re really in silos; there’s a lot of social media and a lot of ways that people access information that doesn’t lead to a cohesive community any more,” said Tunnicliffe, general manager of Sea Bluff Farm on Wootton Road in Metchosin.

“I don’t know a lot of the youngsters, I don’t see them at the farmers markets. We’re all kind of doing our own thing independently of each other and it’s my hope in the future that we can be more cohesive.”

Working at the farm, the growing season has also changed drastically over the years. Using all types of techniques and technology from a 1950s cub tractor to hill potatoes, weeding and seeding, Sea Bluff Farm is now growing fresh produce all year-round.

“Farmers are really having to plow it to the fence, really get all the successions in that we can. We’re farming 365 days a year and 52 weeks of harvest,” Tunnicliffe said. “We are trying to maximize the seasonal shoulders, doing everything we can even just to break even, replace infrastructure and pay staff.”

Produce, which varies depending on the season, is being sold through more channels too. Instead of simply going to one farmers’ market, Sea Bluff sells its produce at numerous markets, through a food box program run via Saanich Organics, and operates a farm stand twice a week.

“I think we have to work a lot harder at marketing than our predecessors. Even since I started farming, it used to be that we would go to the Moss Street Market and that would be the only one in town and you could sell all your produce. But now there’s a little market in every neighbourhood. So we’re ending up going to five different markets in order to sell our produce, which is really taxing,” Tunnicliffe said.

But in the face of an industry that is constantly in flux and can be hard for young farmers to break into, Tunnicliffe believes there is a growing desire from residents who want to know where their food is coming from.

“Customers are becoming way more educated about the food, about the problems,” she said. “People are learning more about their food system and demanding that chemicals not be used, that slave labour not be used.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The orange parcel was bought by the CRD for $1.1 million to add to Mount Work Regional Park. (CRD map)
Capital Regional District expands Mount Work land for $1.1 million

Privately-owned 13.8 hectares in the Highlands is ecologcically valuable

North Saanich has received a report from the Urban Development Institute calling on the municipality to expand and densify its housing options in the face of demographic and environmental changes as the municipality continues its Official Community Plan review. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich asked to create more affordable, diverse housing

Urban Development Institute says community faces demographic, environmental challenges

One woman has been arrested in connection with a drug trafficking investigation. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria woman arrested, car and drugs seized during trafficking investigation

Multiple units combine forces for investigation, arrest

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Royal Bay pride crosswalk restored following graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Colwood high school

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. A motorcyclist was airlifted to hospital by BC Air Ambulance and later died. (Collin C photo)
UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies from injuries sustained in Mid-Island highway collision

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Most Read