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 Saanichton Farm – a Century Tars Cheema
“It’s the people,” began former dairyman Bryce Rashleigh as he addressed the
of Farming with Community
appreciative crown at Saanichton Farm on October 23. “You can have all the equipment in the world, but never forget, it’s about the people,” Bryce repeated the words of his late father, Peter. It was immensely moving and fitting, as the farm was recognized for 100 years of farming on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island with a Century Farm award.
John Rashleigh came from England in 1913 and purchased 16 acres of mainly bush land in Coombs, about two hours north of Victoria. He would not farm this land until he returned from WWI married to Elizabeth in the fall of 1919. They rolled up their sleeves and made it productive enough to purchase the next farm – 160 acres nearby where they continued to milk cows and deliver the milk in town (Qualicum Beach). In 1936, they relocated to the original ‘Saanichton Farm’ - 95 beautiful acres not far outside of Victoria. John’s son Peter took over the dairy operation, until he died suddenly, leaving 15-year old Bryce to carry on. The farm was sold in 2006 and Bryce and his wife Jill bought the current farm close by.
It's about the people. Bryce also acknowledged the long relationships and friendships his family has enjoyed with the indigenous peoples of this area, on whose historic lands their farm and other farms are located. Many were in attendance to celebrate the award with the Rashleigh family. “We enjoy multiple connections to these families. We are community and we hope to keep finding ways...despite all the ways we have messed up in the past,” he humbly offered.
Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham offered her comments, identifying the importance of food security and suggesting we haven’t always seen food importance over the last century. She added, “The Century Farm Award recognizes the family over 100 years, but it also represents a community they have developed around them.” She presented the Century Farm award to Bryce’s Aunt Betty, who he is quick to point out, at 101 years of age, her life has spanned the Century of Rashleigh family farming. “Whatever your secret is Aunt Betty, it has something to do with being part of a farming family,” Bryce joked.
And true to his father’s words, Bryce has not forgotten about ‘the people.’ He was pivotal in orchestrating movement of dozens of loads of round bales from his Island farm to BC’s interior and beyond (with transport costs donated by others) - as far east as the Saskatchewan border – hay relief for livestock left short of feed due to the drought and wildfires. We shared this wonderful story in our Fall 2021 issue.
Although Bryce and Jill’s children all have successful careers off-farm, they are quick to support the farm when the need arises.
What’s the secret to a successful Century Farm? Apparently, “A good wife, a good mechanic and good people on your team.”
 (L-R) MLA Adam Olsen, Provincial Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham, Betty Rashleigh, Bryce Rashleigh.
Betty Rashleigh was
a ‘stow-away’ when John and Elizabeth Rashleigh came to Vancouver Island
from England in 1919. She was born a few months later, and her remarkable 101 years has spanned the entire farming story of the Rashleigh family. She offered these words, “It is the goodness of the Lord that our crops have grown, and our farm has prospered. May we give thanks...”
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