June 02, 2014
Ruckle Farm ~ Salt Spring Island's oldest farm
Ruckle Farm, nestled neatly into Ruckle Provincial Park at the south end of Salt Spring Island, is the oldest working farm in the province still owned by its original family.
Henry Ruckle came to Canada from Ireland in the 1870s and found land on Salt Spring Island particularly attractive. The price at the time was the princely sum of about $2.50/hectare. In 1872 he began farming 80 hectares. By 1948 the Ruckle family owned almost 500 hectares of land on Salt Spring. Before the advent of Europeans, the land was used by indigenous people for settlement and shell fish gathering.
Today the working farm is back to its original 80 hectares, surrounded by over 500 hectares of park land. Visitors can see bits and pieces of the farm while hiking through the park.
Every year the farm raises about 150 lambs from 90 ewes. Lambing begins in December and carries on into the spring. On our week on Salt Spring at the end of May, Sherry and I barbecued lamb three times, all of it coming from Ruckle Farm. It was probably the best lamb I can remember eating.
Highland cattle roam the property freely and with some shyness as only befits Highlanders.
On our trip to the park and farm, wild turkeys were roaming about and there were some amazing displays. These are strange creatures indeed, and one can find them throughout the farm, and sometimes in the park area too. On this day the main attraction was a never ending display to attract females. Or so it seemed. Something is going on here and it isn't anticipation for Thanksgiving.
In 1972, one hundred years after its founding, the entire farm was sold by the Ruckle family to BC Parks with provision for the active farm and several residences to be maintained by the family through a life tenancy agreement.
The farm is organic in its operations and a member of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF enables people from around the world to work and live on active organic farms like this one.
The Ruckle family have always taken their stewardship of the land seriously and the farm and the surrounding park is testament to the conservation spirit of the family. Henry's son Gordon once said, "You can't own land, you can only preserve it for future generations." That they have.
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.