A NEWSLETTER FROM THE SALT SPRING ISLAND FARMERS' INSTITUTE This is the Farmers' Institute newsletter for May. Looks like another dry summer. Where t



This is the Farmers' Institute newsletter for May. Looks like another dry summer. Where to put all those starts in the house mmm.........I could always put them outside for the rabbits.
Please FOLLOW THE BLUE LINKS TO WEBSITES OR VIDEOS. Below is a handy content list.


Institutes' Yearly Roundup.............................................................Tony Threlfall
Events, Clubs, Updates
Mushroom Workshop................................................................Nicole Melanson
Our Community Remembers.....................................Mary Mollet nee Bennett
The Compost Pile.................................................................Jokes For Everyone
The Apple Core.................................................................................Conrad Pilon
About Dry Farming.........................................................................A Case Study
Famous Recipes................................Yellow Lentils with Spinach and Ginger

SSI Farmers’ Institute Yearly Roundup

by Tony Threlfall

Since the Annual General Meeting of the Farmers' Institute was held after the last edition of this newsletter, we thought it might be of interest to the membership to know what Issues and Activities the Board has had to deal with in the past year. The Board of Directors meet on the second Tuesday of every month except for September. The meetings commence at 7:00 PM and are open to all members.

Issues and Policies
The Board has had input on the following community issues:

Salt Spring Incorporation Study

Water Sustainability Act.

Non-Farm use application of ALR Land at 181 Brinkworthy Road.

Farmers' Institute Rental Agreement review

Ganges Harbour Boardwalk
All of these issues and policies require a lot research and correspondence. Some of the issues are ongoing and will appear again in the 2016 report.

Board Member Activities
The scope of the Institute Board member is not limited to the once monthly meeting. Board members are also active in the following Agricultural and community organizations-

Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance.....2 Board members and 1 Institute member

SSI Farmland Trust Society........2 Board members and 1 Institute member

Salt Spring Farmers' Heritage Foundation.....3 Board members and 1 Institute


Agricultural Advisory Planning Commission to the Islands Trust.....3 Board

In addition to the Board members duties and activities outlined in the previous categories, there is the business of operating the Farmers' Institute grounds and facilities. Because the Institute makes our facilities available to the community for a wide range of public events, we have to maintain a regular program of buildings and grounds maintenance. As some of our facilities are now in the thirty plus years of age category, a fairly rigorous program of replacement and upgrades has to be constantly in place. Don't think for one minute that the Directors are doing all of this work. We are fortunate in having an extremely active group of members helping every week. A couple of examples of maintenance activities in the past year: new floors in the upstairs meeting room, installation of Low Flush toilets in all washrooms, completion of the Museum extension, upgrading and painting of the caretakers house, and on and on.

Mixed into this broad outline is the ongoing daily business of producing a Fall Fair, discussing and planning for upgrades and building requirements, The Annual General Meeting.....which saw the election of 3 new Board members....Riley Byers, Terry Clement and Mike Hogan. Discussions with the Heritage Foundation re: the official opening of the Museum extension, planning for Heritage Day, and plans to publish a book to celebrate the Institute's 120th Anniversary.

We hope this short recap will give you some insight as to what your Directors are doing. You might think the life of a Board member is extremely busy and you'd be right. We are always looking for volunteers to help.....we need members who will sit on the Board of some of these outside organizations, volunteers to help staff the Museum and people to help with Fall Fair etc.....just offer to help and we'll find the perfect fit !!

bit museum

Bittancourt Museum

Bittancourt Museum

by J. Fulker

In recent weeks the museum has received several very interesting new donations, among them a very exciting acquisition is the Stevens family piano ( information attached) also of particular interest is a trophy cup which was presented in 1912 to a group from Saanich Ward 7, which at that time included Salt Spring, the cup was for a tug of war competition between several districts and a number of Salt Spring men were on the Ward 7 team. In honour of this we are planning to have a tug of war at the Heritage Day in July and will have the old trophy on display,( but will not let it go). We will have a new trophy for the competition and will try to make this an annual event with invitations going to several teams to compete.
When the piano has been tuned we are hoping to have an invitational musical evening at the museum with one or two local pianists invited to perform.
This year museum is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 3pm until the end of June and will then be open in July and August, Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 4pm. If anyone can volunteer to help staff the museum for a couple of hours your help will be much appreciated. If you are able to help please call John Fulker at 537-4895.







The Farmland Trust still has ACREAGE AVAILABLE FOR LONG TERM RENTAL at Burgoyne Valley Community Farm 2232 Fulford-Ganges Road.

We are accepting responses to our Request For Proposals (RFP) for these three parcels.

For more information and to submit proposals:
Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust Society
107 Castle Cross Rd,
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2G1
email: ssifarmlandtrust@shaw.ca
250 537 5302

Please review the documents for:
1) Request for Proposals (RFP)
2) Memorandum or Agreement
3) Policies
4) Soil Analysis Report



(20’ x 50’) - $40 per year.
For info see www.ssifarmlandtrust.org
Review: Shaw Family Gardens Handbook
for rules and application form.
Email: ssifarmlandtrust@shaw.ca
or 250-537-5302

Clubs & Updates of Interest


On Vacation



by Sara Ratner

In March of this year the Weavers and Spinners guild offered a 3-day beginner’s weaving class for adults. In this hands-on-course, students learned the basic steps to weaving: planning, winding a warp, dressing the loom and the process of weaving. Yarns and looms provided. Each participant came away with 2 finished items. The course ran at its maximum of 8 people and was taught by Victoria Olchowecki and assisted by members of the guild.

Our formal programming year takes place at Artspring September through April. Shortly, we will be gathering on at the homes of individual members for our summer, coffee+ Thursday mornings. We welcome all newcomers; textile experience is not a prerequisite. We’re friendly and we make really good cake. To enquire, call Sara at 250-538-6288

The main program theme this year was “The Lacy Weaves: basket, canvas, huck, Swedish lace, spot Bronson and lace Bronson.” As in the previous year, this part of the program was constructed as an intensive 7-day workshop, spread over 7 months and included seven illustrated talks or mini-workshops, plus weaving assignments.
In the fall we had a half-day workshops taught by Mary Paddon on the basics of “core-spun squiggles” using BFL fleece donated by Lorrie Irwin and dyed by Mary. The other fall highlight was a visit from Karen Selk and members of the Textile and Surface Design Group who brought many wonderful and varied textiles to amaze and inspire us.
We also travelled vicariously throughout the winter-spring months with 3 very rich audio visual and tactile programs. First, Karen Selk took us to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and eastern India. Then we flew off to the Kutch Desert area of India with Charlotte Kwan (via DVD) and Stella Weinart who told us about her fabulous experience in a 21-day block-printing workshop. And, finally, we experienced Ethiopia through the eyes of Jane Stafford.



Report from the Chair
May 9, Salt Spring Abattoir AGM

Areas of Strength
1/ Staff: we currently are blessed to have a staff that is enthusiastic to learn more and improve on last year
2/ We have a clean building with well established food handling and safety procedures.
3/ Our productivity has increased throughout last year. We can now easily process 300 or more birds/day and 25-30 lambs per day. In 2015 9,878lbs of lamb, 8,921lbs of chicken and 4,774 lbs of turkey moved through the abattoir.
4/ Our quality in cut and wrap continues to improve. We may have to limit options and increase costs for some specialty services. Ie grinding and sausage.
5/ We now have up to date accounting information and a much better idea of our actual costs running the facility.

Areas in Need of Improvement
1/ We need to access some more training monies for our staff. This will be especially true for beef.
2/ We are in need of professional financial advice as to the future direction of the abattoir.
3/ We need ( and local farmers ) to improve the marketing of our products. We need to open up local markets on Salt Spring and try and get more products off-island where possible.
4/ We need to improve our presence on social media and the net in general.
5/ We must get pork and beef processed as soon as possible.
6/ We need to have some back-up equipment in case of breakdown. Ie If the chicken plucker motor goes down we have no backup. Hand plucking hundreds of chickens takes a long time.
7/ We need a new office space/trailer. The current one is in bad shape. We have no space for a shower or change area. This has to change.

Thank You
Murray Coates and Michael Hogan for putting in many, many hours with our renovation.
The Farmers Institute for their support in purchasing a hog scalder
The Poultry Club has hosted events and donated the proceeds to The Abattoir Society
The Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance for their continued support in fund raising and their patience during our reno process
Caroline Hickman for collecting out tapes from Country Grocer once a month.
Duncan Elsey for his continued maintenance of our web site.
Margaret Thomson and Jean Brouard for the sage advice.
Or Staff: Tama, Riley, Baaron, Sequoia, Josh and Paul. You are the key component of our business
The Ministry of Agriculture for putting on some workshops. ie. Humane Slaughter processes)
Board Members for their time and efforts throughout the year.
Brett Webb and Deb Fedorak for their help with accounting and our finances
Country Grocer for their continued support




by Loretta Rithaler
February – February the official beginning of the 4H project year began with a Club meeting where everyone got together to discuss ideas for the forthcoming year. Members considered their 4H projects, how and from where they will purchase their project animals and we began to get organized with planning for upcoming events and record keeping.

We are delighted that one of our senior members (Anna) has decided her major 4H Project for this year is a Junior Leadership project, where she will be leading a Cloverbud project. This is an exploratory program for youth aged 6-8 years, beginning the 4H program. (see Anna’s report)

March – Such a busy month for our members as our big events begin. Our 4H public speaking event on March 12 th was once again a great day. The speeches were marvelous and the topics varied, delivered with poise, confidence and humour. All but one member was able to participate, so congratulations on this achievement. It takes much to prepare and present a speech to an audience. The members, families, visitors and judges enjoyed a terrific lunch prepared by Ramona and Stacey - delicious! Many thanks to our judges for that special day – Jaylene, Stan and Christine.

March 27th – Easter at the SSI Cheese Farm – It was a great day, although the weather was somewhat precarious. But that did not stop our 4H members and thir families from setting up a great animal display bright and early Easter Sunday morning for the enjoyment of hundreds of visitors – and the weather held off for just long enough!

There were plenty of smiles from the wee ones re-hiding Easter eggs they’d found in the first place. The Cloverbuds had a great get together, and Emily, our newest member, had the opportunity to share her knowledge in a presentation of her poultry project. 4H members visited and shared information about their projects, and answered questions for curious onlookers. A great day was enjoyed by everyone.

April - District Public Speaking - Our club was eligible to send two candidates from each of the Junior and Senior classes to the District Competition, however the spring break schedule this year proved challenging and one member each from the Junior and Senior categories attended. William, our Junior speaker, placed 4th in a field of 18 members on April 2nd with his speech on “Thinkfast”, and Anna also placed 4th overall in the Senior competition on April 3rd with a speech on “Tongue Twisters”. Congratulations!

April has seen the beginning of the animal projects. All members have selected their project animals and are busy getting to know them, and establish relationships with them, with care and husbandry skills developing along the way.

Foxglove Farm and Garden Day - Our annual visit to Foxglove Farm and Garden Supply on April 30 was a beautiful sunny day. Our members put on an animal display, held a successful bake sale and gave an opportunity for visitors to see what the 4H members do up-close. With many other public events going on that day, it was not as busy as usual, but those that attended enjoyed beautiful weather, some shade with the animals and even a yummy treat baked by our fabulous 4H families. Thanks to Chris and Marilyn Schmah for their continued support and encouragement of the 4H program on Saltspring Island.

Our members distributed seed packages to visitors, provided by 4H Canada, to encourage people to plant a “Bee Garden” – to attract bees to pollinate. This is part of a nation-wide 4H project called “Proud to BEE a 4H-er”...

Our members who have planted a garden will be encouraged to take photographs and make observations on whether they feel their gardens have been successful. We will be gathering this input throughout the 4H year and reporting back to 4H Canada with the results.

Thanks to everyone for a great start to the 4H year and we hope to see you soon!

If you have any questions or inquiries, please contact Loretta Rithaler at lrithaler@telus.net.



4hMabel  Autum and Emma

Mabel, Autumn & Emma

4hMakin  Faces-Jaylene and Molly

Mak'in Faces

SSI 4H Juniors and Seniors

4H Juniors & Seniors

Mushroom Workshop

By Nicole Melanson


Jacob Cooper of S.S. Sprouts & Mushrooms


A Gathering of Shroomers

Sponsored by the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust Society, Jacob Cooper from Salt Spring Sprouts & Mushrooms joined us in front of the barn at the Farm Centre for Food Security site on March 31st to give a fascinating introductory talk about the amazing world of mushrooms. He covered the basics on how to cultivate your own gourmet mushrooms, as well as mycoremediation (term coined by mushroom guru Paul Stamets) – or the practice of degrading and/or sequestering contaminants in the environment.

The workshop consisted of a one hour talk followed by a hands-on project of inoculating alder logs with oyster mushrooms. The logs could produce edible mushrooms as early as this fall, or spring of next year and will remain part of the community food forest and educational/demonstration gardens at the Salt Spring Farm Centre for Food Security site.

The event was attended by 19 participants with many more on a waiting list. Jacob was a funny and engaging speaker, overflowing with a passion for the fascinating world of fungi. It was evident that many seeds were planted that day, in terms of sparks of excitement for both mushrooms and the Farm Centre project itself.


Mary Mollet nee Bennett - January 13,1920- April 14,2016

Mary spent her life on Salt Spring. She will be remembered as a kind industrious person with a generous smile. With her husband Les, they raised a family of four children while operating a large farm in Fulford. She wrote 2 cookbooks , "An Apple a Day" and "An Apple a Day Vol 2". All the recipes use Salt Spring apples. She was a keen particpant at the Apple Festival in Fulford Hall.

Mary also was an entrepreneur who owned Sunnyside Garden Supplies in Fulford. She was known for her vegetable garden and her dahlias. Two trophies that are awarded at our Fall Fair were donated by the Mollets. The Sunnyside Nursery Trophy is for the Best Vegetable Collection in Junior Horticulture and the Leslie Mollet Memorial Trophy for the Best Squash Exhibit in the Adult Vegetable Section.




The Apple Core

By Conrad Pilon

Apple Fire Blight

In March, my able grafting assistant Igor (a.k.a. Mike Lakin) and I attended the BC Fruit Testers Association Annual General Meeting. (Actually, it is just another excuse to go off island to the Prairie Inn Neighbourhood Pub). Back at the AGM, one of the invited speakers was Jim Rahe who treated us to a most instructive seminar on: "The four horsemen for apples in coastal BC: codling moth, maggot, scab and canker". A lecture on the unhelpful components that sometime render tree fruit cultivation just a little more sporting what. As reported in the winter 2016 Cider Press, the newsletter of the BCFTA, Jim Rahe was a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University from 1969 until his retirement in 2004. Jim and his wife Mary Ann began planting apple and pear trees at their 7 acres near Aldergrove in 1979, and at the "height of insanity" as Jim calls it, they had over 300 varieties of apples.

As an add-on to the Rahe seminar and following another serious infection outbreak at Oscar’s Meadow Orchard this April, I would acclaim fire blight, a devastating disease, as the fifth horseman. This spring, five apple trees became casualties to this destructive and contagious disease affecting apples and pears. Ten years ago, the loss was seven trees. My orchard journal will record: the trees are predominantly young, averaging five years old, indiscriminate to a variety of cultivars (no specific varieties), infection occurs during blossom time, quite often following an unusual hot spell (such as we experienced in mid-April this year), and, despite careful management controls applied when infection is discovered, eventually, all had to be destroyed (burned).

Fire blight is caused by the bacterium (Erwinia amylovora), which overwinters in the bark at the edge of cankers formed during previous growing seasons. As weather becomes warm in the spring, the bacteria multiply, ooze to the surface in sticky droplets. Blossoms wilt and die in about one or two weeks after infection and the bacteria that trickle from them provide inoculum for secondary spread to young succulent shoots. Bees and other insects, birds, rain and wind then transmit the bacterium to susceptible tissue on other tress in the orchard. Injured tissue, in particular, is highly susceptible to infection, including pruning cuts, punctures and tears caused by plant-sucking or biting insects and birds.

Sources will tell you, that under optimal conditions and if unchecked, this destructive disease can destroy an entire orchard in a single growing season. I can personally confirm as to the aggressiveness of this infection; and, despite the claim of some resources about the resistance of certain varieties, all apple and pear cultivars are susceptible and can fall prey to this contagion. Visible symptoms include: darkened (orange and black) and depressed bark on small branches then ‘leaking down’ to the trunk, skin thin bark layers peeling off the tree where the infection takes hold, wilted blossoms and leaves and finally dead branches.

Much like Monty Pythons’ Flying Circus Spanish Inquisition, fire blight outbreaks are sporadic and unpredictable. They (outbreaks of fire blight, not Spanish Inquisitions) can cause extensive damage to all apple and pear trees in the orchard in some years while no significant damage in others. Part of this erratic behaviour is rooted in variations in local weather conditions and the stage of development of the trees. However, the destructive potential and random nature of fire blight along with the fact that epidemics develop in several phases make this disease difficult to control and provides yet another ‘little’ challenge to the backyard orchadist.

So how do you manage and attempt to control this intrusion in the orchard? Good question. The ever informative net will provide you with a range of options to combat fire blight, most involve spraying and chemical solutions. In the next issue of the Cultivated Farmer I will detail the steps I take. You may not want to try these at home and you may have other and better solutions that work for your infected trees. In the meantime, stay tuned, all will be revealed.

Common Misconceptions and Key Points About Dry Farming

Case study of dry farmer with more than 40 years of experience

Amy Garrett, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University
Summer 2014

Commercial and non-commercial producers in the Pacific Northwest are already facing challenges of increasing weather variability and a changing climate. Reduced snowmelt, higher temperatures and drought directly impact water supply for growers. While farmers can do little on their own to prevent climate change, they may be able to change irrigation practices, select more drought tolerant crops to grow, and use water conservation techniques to mitigate crop losses caused by extreme climate events. Dry farming is one approach to producing food without irrigation.
This article is based on the experience of a farmer that has grown tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, garlic, favas and other beans organically and without any form of irrigation for 40 years (1974 to 2014). He started off in California and then retired in 2007 and bought 9.6 acres in Veneta, OR with no water rights where he is now growing food for himself and selling to multiple small grocers in Eugene. While being one of the most experienced dry farmers in our region, he values his privacy in his retirement and wishes to remain anonymous so he will instead be referred to as ‘our dry farmer’. This will not be a comprehensive overview but instead will feature some common misconceptions and key points about dry farming from this farmer’s experience.
Common misconceptions about dry farming:
Dry farming is watering a few times in the beginning of the season and then cutting it off towards the end.
Watering is not complementary to dry farming - watering can create crusting and cracking in the soil surface and cause soil to dry out faster.
Dry farming just means farming without irrigation
Soil preparation, timing of tillage and planting, conservation of moisture, tilth, and plant spacing are all key points to dry farming. If the soil is worked too late and is too dry at planting time dry farming will not work. The soil must be worked at just the right time by paying close attention and monitoring soil moisture.
Dry farming only works in cool coastal climates
Dry farming also works in hotter climates inland, and is more common in California where there is less rainfall than in Oregon and temperatures get well above 100°F multiple times during the growing season. This is the climate our dry farmer worked in for his first 30 plus years of dry farming. He noticed that in California where water scarcity is much more of an issue, farmers tend to be more aware of moisture and tilth.
Key points for dry farmingBreaking ground on April 9, 2014 with Ollie the protective goose supervising alongside. Photo by Amy Garrett
“Dry farming is all about soil preparation. Conservation of moisture. Tilth. Without it, it doesn't work.”
Soil preparation
Dry farming requires soils that have high water holding capacity and works best in soils that have some clay content according to our dry farmer. His soil is primarily a Veneta Loam, which has a clay content 14 inches and below. He incorporates grazing with sheep and geese, and legume cover crops into his rotation to help manage soil fertility and improve soil tilth.
Our dry farmer starts to work the soil in the first dry window in the spring when the soil will stick together if you squeeze it in your hand but still crumble apart. He emphasizes timing and working the soil at just the right time. This can’t be put on the calendar weeks in advance because it requires careful observation. Not only does the soil have to be worked at the right time but multiple times. He lets the field ‘digest’ or sit for at least 2-3 weeks after working it up once and then works it several more times weather permitting to prepare the seed bed. If it is worked after a late rain before planting, he said he gets a nice velvety seedbed.
Conservation of moisture and tilth
“You have to work with the moisture you have.”Soil moisture at planting time on May 14, 2014. Photo by Amy Garrett.
When direct seeding, our dry farmer drops the seed into place and steps it in to create good seed-soil contact and helps bring moisture to the surface for germination. The rest of the soil is kept loose to a depth of 4-6” to help with root development and maintain the moisture. In the case of a heavy rain event or overhead irrigation, the soil gets compacted on the surface. When it dries, it cracks, which only quickens the drying out of the soil below the first few inches. So heavy rain and overhead watering hinder the ability of the soil to retain it’s moisture. He says that, “no rain is ideal between second week of June through first week in September.” This helps to maintain soil moisture in the root zone and creates an environment for very little weed pressure.
Plants have wider spacing in dry farming systems so that they are not competing with each other for resources as much. He explains that his spacing is also set to the width of his tractor, which makes it easier on him as a one-man show in addition to producing larger plants.
Crop selection
Our dry farmer grows tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, garlic, favas and other beans. He continues to grow these crops because they do well in his system. In addition, he saves seed from some many of his crops, which leads to plantsHokkaido Squash. Photo by Amy Garrett. that are more and more adapted to his conditions over time. The variety of tomato he grows is Big Beef, which began as a volunteer on his farm and he has been planting and replanting for about five years. The maxima squash are Blue Hokkaido, which he developed more than 30 years ago. The bean varieties he is growing are Vermont cranberry, Jacobs’s cattle, Koronis, Whipple and Cannellini. The corn is Abenaki and a cross of various heirloom dent corns that have done well on his farm in previous years.

Why dry farming….
While dry farming may not be a good fit for every farm, it could offer greater crop security for some in times of uncertain water supply (e.g. water right issues and climate change). It may also offer a way to get started in crop production on a piece of land while saving money for an irrigation system. Another reason people may choose to dry farm beyond lack of water might be taste. According to our dry farmer, “Growing tomatoes for higher yields with irrigation leads to a tremendous crash in quality and watery tomatoes.” In California, some chefs even pay a premium for dry farmed tomatoes.
Dry farming may not be compatible with your farm because the crops you are choosing to grow or because you have a sandy or shallow soil with low water holding capacity. Whether or not this particular system is a good fit for your land, it highlights and provides an example of how given the right conditions one could grow a variety of specialty crops on land without water rights. The more tools to manage risks associated with water scarcity in the face of climate change the more resilient our agriculture will be in the future.


Ollie the Goose Helping Plough


Soil Moisture at plant time (May)


Hokkaido Squash

IMG 0067

Famous Recipes

Yellow Lentils With Spinach and Ginger

Celebrate the year of the "Pulse"with this healthy meal from my brothers kitchen. . For "Curry in a Hurry" substitute with small red or yellow lentils. They cook in about 15 minutes.l

1 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot or onion, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup yellow lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stemmed and chopped, or 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
Toast only the white sesame seeds before using. To toast, place the sesame seeds in a small, dry saute or frying pan over medium heat. Cook briefly, shaking the pan often and watching carefully to prevent burning. Remove the seeds from the pan as soon as they begin to turn brown. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, ginger, curry powder and turmeric and cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils, stock and coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 12 minutes. The mixture should be brothy; add a little water if needed.

Stir in the spinach, cover and simmer for about 3 minutes longer. The lentils should still hold their shape. Uncover and stir in the salt. Serve hot, garnished with the cilantro and toasted white or untoasted black sesame seeds.

MAY, 2016