Ana Ayala of Haliburton Community Organic Farm holds her pal Goldie

Haliburton community farm thrives, 10 years on

A lot has changed over the decade Haliburton Community Organic Farm has operated six gardens on seven acres of Saanich land in Cordova Bay.

A lot has changed over the decade Haliburton Community Organic Farm has operated six gardens on seven acres of Saanich land in Cordova Bay.

“In 2002 there were no farmers and now it’s the other way around,” said Elmarie Roberts, one of Haliburton Farm’s nine farmers celebrating the anniversary with a Christmas Market this weekend. “There are so many farmers and no land. It was exactly the opposite 10 years ago.”

Roberts was among a core group of people, who in 2002, opposed an application to remove the 4.1 hecatres of then Capital Regional District-owned land from the agricultural land reserve and formed a non-profit society to manage the community farm – one of just 14 in the country.

Mayor Frank Leonard calls the story of Haliburton farm one of Saanich’s happy endings.

“We were troubled by CRD water district’s wanting to dispose of the property and it wasn’t on an area we thought was appropriate for development,” he said. “People who were going to buy the property would have had development in mind.”

An educator from South Africa, Roberts had no prior experience farming when four years after the formation of the society she began growing her peas and lavender.

“I just changed (my lifestyle) completely because there weren’t enough farmers. One of the conditions – growing food – wouldn’t have been met,” Roberts said.

Fast forward to 2012 when produce from the farm can now be found in a year-round box program, a popular farm stand and at the Moss Street and downtown public markets.

The remainder of the Haliburton Community Organic Farm Society’s mandate – to build community, support farmers, provide education and steward the land – are exemplified on a tour of the property.

Enter the farm gates and immediately step onto the Littlest Acre Organics plot, where Ana Ayala passes rows of flourishing chard to check in on one of her favourite chickens, Goldie.

Further along, a greenhouse yields leeks, lettuce and green onions. Spinach and kale continue to grow, while raspberry bushes and anjou pear trees stand ready for next year.

“There’s a wide variety of farmers here and we all help each other,” said Roberts, who now runs the society’s demonstration garden. “That’s what makes it so special.”

Roberts’ former plot has gone through a transformation since 2006, built up with raised beds by Barefoot Organics’ Derek Powell and Goldenrose Paquette. Powell and Paquette have focused much of their efforts on producing seeds, to be sold in the new year at Seedy Saturdays, an annual seed-selling event.

Despite the volunteer-run society’s reliance on grant funding, Roberts stressed that organic farming is financially viable. “The income on the land is growing and growing,” she said.

Despite its growth, Haliburton Community Organic Farm, like any non-profit society, is facing challenges, namely raising the profile of organic farming, and having the space to farm, Roberts said. Plans are now in the works to ease some of the farm’s refrigeration needs by building a large walk-in cooler adjacent to the house, used for washing produce, holding meetings and hosting educational workshops on site.

The successful relationship between the society and the district of Saanich – which purchased the land from the CRD for $400,000 – is one Leonard would like to see elsewhere in the municipality, perhaps via a similar management model on Panama Flats, he said.

“It’s been a win-win for us,” Leonard said. “I’m quite proud of the community group, how they stepped up and made it work.”

The farm is host to apprentice farmers, students from Claremont secondary and this year, representatives from Royal Roads University and Gaia College, who will teach the upcoming course, Growing Food. It is also the site of a biodiversity project, which sees a group of volunteers continue to restore the property’s wetlands.

The Christmas Market, complete with produce, herbs, teas, baking, chocolates and gifts, runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at 741 Haliburton Rd.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Single parent resource centre continues operations in partially-condemned building

Victoria’s 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre moves back into heritage home

Townhouses on the rise in popularity in Greater Victoria

A report finds 152 townhouse units in the construction pipeline and coming onto market in 2020.

Annual Oak Bay Collector Car Festival expects 15,000 spectators

July 28 show features a pair of super cars that won prestigious awards at the Detroit Autorama show

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read