A NEWSLETTER FROM THE SALT SPRING ISLAND FARMERS' INSTITUTE This is the Farmers' Institute newsletter for November. Wow, sort of rained since the las



This is the Farmers' Institute newsletter for November. Wow, sort of rained since the last newsletter in August, glad we had some rain boots on that pig.
Please FOLLOW THE BLUE LINKS TO WEBSITES OR VIDEOS. Below is a handy content list.


Fall Fair Round Up............................................................................Tony Threlfall
Events, Clubs, Updates
The Compost Pile....................................................................Jokes for Everyone
Sheep Skin Uses......................................................................Margaret Tompson
Famous Recipes....................................................................Turnip, Potato Hash
The Morton B. Stratton Manuscript Cont'd.............................Usha Reutenbach


At The Races


By Tony Threlfall

This Year's Fall Fair theme, Poultry In Motion, was probably the most, and best incorporated theme in recent memory. Chicks, chickens, roosters, eggs, and feathers were seen in virtually every category. There was a scare crow entry that literally stole the show. It was a large chicken, standing about 4 feet
tall, whose head bobbed and wings flapped when switched on. The hen sported it's own solar panel( organic chicken ??) and was certainly a hit with everyone, especially the kids. Director Paul Minvielle had a great time inviting all the youngsters to have a visit with the chicken and to flip the switch.
This was a very difficult year for the Horticulture sections. The early, hot and dry summer, wasn't conducive to the usual large number of floral entries. Dahlias did well and contributed a colourful show. Andrea's section was, as usual, outstanding considering the limitations mother nature imposed.
Fruit and vegetables suffered from the early season as well. Although most of the categories were represented, the volume of entries wasn't as large as in a normal year. That being said, the “ Family Garden” entry submitted by Mike and Marjorie Lane from Ruckle Farm certainly didn't suffer from the drought. It was, in a word, spectacular. Well done !! Junior Horticulture, as usual, put on a wonderful display, despite the fact that they had the same problems as their senior mentors.
Once again, the Poultry theme was more than evident in the Needlework sections. Chickens appeared all through the various sections, both junior and adult. A most impressive display of quilts , knitting and embroidery. As always, a very colourful and well displayed section. Speaking of colourful, the baking section was spectacular. Poultry was certainly in Motion with the cake decorating artists. As usual, all entries were a gourmands delight. The preserves section was well represented and was one of the few sections that may have benefited from the early season.
Hobby Arts and Photography sections were again one of the highlights of the Fair. The coordinators of these two sections do an exceptional job of displaying the sometimes difficult submissions. It's fun to wander through these section and see excited young people viewing their work and enjoying the fact that their efforts are being displayed for all to see and admire.
In the Annex, the craft sections all had great displays and the section coordinators presented working displays of the various arts and crafts. The Basketry and Pottery Guilds also provided instruction areas for children which proved to be very popular. Lots of colourful healthy roosters and verdant farms were featured in the Painters Guild display. The painters also had an artist doing demo painting.
The Poultry building was, as one would imagine, given the Fair Theme, the highlight of the barn areas. Co-ordinator Mike Hogan and his crew outdid themselves in their presentation. Mike's large hanging chicken display where everyone, especially kids, could tug on a rope and have all the represented chickens busy pecking away. The brooder, with baby chicks hatching, was another super feature.
Undoubtedly, one of the real hits of the Fair were the chicken races. Seeing 3 adult handlers on their hands and knees “egging” on their rooster to win the race was a crowd pleaser....the cries of more, were heard at every outing. There seemed to be fewer entries in the livestock barn, but the animals that were shown were all quality specimens. Of special interest, considering the theme was the Rooster Crowing Contest. Arthur Black was the host and emcee for this prestigious event. The winner this year, with a really healthy cockle-doodle-doo was a lady. Word is that she practiced diligently all year in preparation !! As usual, the 4-H group outdid themselves and presented a quality representation of their year's activities. They featured lots of well behaved and trained chickens, bunnies, sheep and their photography exhibit.
Needless to say, the Zucchini races maintained their magnetism for the crowd,,,,you could hear the roars as people cheered for their racer of choice. One added feature, John Pottinger, the emcee for the original races several years ago, made an unexpected visit to the Fair and took a turn at the microphone. Nice to see and hear John !!
The sheep in the neighbouring field, which performed for Mike and Marjorie Lane and their superbly trained sheep dogs, seemed unaffected by all the noise from the Zucchini races and went about their business of challenging the dogs. Fortunately, these well trained sheep dogs triumphed at every outing and the sheep were successfully penned. Right next door to the sheep dogs, another troop of super intelligent canines went about their business of Dog Agility. Again an outstanding demonstration and very entertaining.
Rod Bailey and his crew put on another great display with their restored farm equipment and machinery. Of particular interest was the threshing display and people always seem drawn to the antique tractors. A new feature this year was the operational restored sawmill. Really interesting to see a perfect maple board appear from an otherwise nondescript muddy old log. These gents seem to be getting more and more of these antique machines restored and the interest by the public never wanes.
The Blacksmiths were busy all weekend, in their new home, displaying all of their techniques in this, one of the oldest surviving trades. Their area seemed to be constantly crowded with appreciative audiences.
The first building as you enter the grounds is the Bittancourt Museum. This year we were showing off the new addition to the building which allowed for a much expanded display of the history of Salt Spring Island and how we got to this point. Two large murals, painted by Alfred Temmel, illustrated some aspects of early life on the Island.
Top all of the above off with the best 2 days of music from the stage ever, 20 or more vendors providing an outstanding array of international food types, a beer garden featuring local beer, ale and wine, vendors telling their story or presenting unusual merchandise to see and purchase and you've seen the results of months of planning and hard work. Another great Fall Fair and so




Rooster Calling


Sheep Herding



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


2 Parcels - 1/3 Acre each

1 Parcel - 1 Acre

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


at Burgoyne Valley Community Farm


(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


by Mike Hogan
The Salt Spring Poultry Club has been very active this fall. In addition to our own Fall Fair poultry display club members have attended some off island poultry shows, always on the lookout for good new breeding stock. This year we have seen an increase in the number of breeds on island, and some of these breeds now have large enough numbers that we can hatch more good quality pure-bred heritage birds here. This will reduce the number of chicks that are purchased off island and help sustain poultry keeping here. This has been the goal of a few club members for a long time and we are encouraged to see it finally happening.

The poultry club recently acquired two more incubators. This new equipment will give the club a greater ability to meet the spring peak season demand for hatching. Also we will now be able to keep eggs of waterfowl in a separate incubator form chicken eggs. The Incubating needs (temperature, humidity and days required) are different for the various species. Hopefully this will lead to greater hatching success and encourage more people to breed and hatch good quality poultry here on island. We also hope to be able to teach more people how to operate the incubators and spread the knowledge base. The funds for the incubators are coming from the club treasury supported by some specifically earmarked donations. Michael Hogan's giant pumpkin from the Fall Fair was displayed at Country Grocer, and they made a $100 donation. After being removed from the store display the great migrating pumpkin then rolled down to Moby's Pub to be used by them in their Halloween display. Thanks Moby's for another $100 donation!

At our most recent meeting we had a full agenda of discussion topics. We had reports on the Fraser Valley poultry show by Ted Baker, and talked about a group attending and showing at Coombs on November 7th. We compared quality and cost of various brands of feed. Feed prices are constantly rising and it is becoming a real concern as to how to manage this. Please note that this will be addressed in a creative way in the upcoming January workshop. Ways of reducing food cost are always a popular topic. We talked about rodent control, an issue that never goes away. The first step in good rodent control is good husbandry and then an understanding of using traps and poison. Protecting and raising healthy poultry is an ongoing area of learning and education that the club offers to members.

Margaret Thomson is working with a group of club members to organize another poultry workshop for this coming January 30th. The subject of the workshop will be "Raising Healthy Laying Chickens". There will be an emphasis on doing so sustainably. There will be some off island experts presenting as well as experienced knowledgeable islanders. Advertising will come out for this well ahead of time. This will be a great workshop very helpful to new or experienced poultry keepers. Spread the word. We will put the information up at Foxglove Farm and Garden Supply as well as on our website. http://saltspringpoultry.com/

The club has an active online email discussion group. New and old subjects are constantly being talked about. This has turned into a great learning and sharing tool for club members. Club membership has been a real bargain at only $5 a year. New members are always welcome.

The Abattoir Birthday Bash is coming up on the 14th of November at the Farmers Institute. Being able to process meat birds here on island has done a lot to encourage more poultry raising here. Several club members will be helping with the setting up the event. Island raised turkey and lamb is on the menu. We encourage everyone to get their tickets early and support this successful community enterprise.

All in all we seem to now have an active supportive group of poultry enthusiasts and we are clucking along nicely.



Thinking about getting a Goat

Island Goat Owners would like to invite you to the inaugural meeting on
Nov 21 @ 11am
Located at Scouts Hall at the Cowichan Exhibition grounds in Duncan:
Coffee and tea provide (pay by donation)

We are a group of people passionate about providing:
• Education through seminars/workshops and online Q&A.
• Mentoring (New/Perspective goat owners and 4H)
• Promoting the goat industry
• Having a voice in the goat industry at the provincial and federal level
We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about goats!
For more information find us on Facebook: Island Goat Owners
Duncan to Mill bay Area: Sandy Howell 250-748-0667 or email clearday29@gmail.com
Salt Spring Island: Joanne Burns 250-537-9333
Victoria area: Gail Marthyman 250-541-9070
Nanaimo/Ladysmith area: Sharon Lamontagne 250-753-2035
Nanoose and North: Zoë Thorbergson 250-999-2430

IMG 2266


on vacation




Last year at this time an article written in the Driftwood speculated that the second Birthday Bash might be the last for the abattoir. Nothing could be further from the truth. This year has been a very busy one for the abattoir and its employees. In July, August and September we billed over $30,000 of service to local farmers. We have had a considerable increase in our poultry numbers this summer. Thank you to all our local farmers for supporting the abattoir. Our staff is continuing to improve our efficiency and quality of service. The abattoir employs eight part time staff.

As winter approaches there are some dates poultry producers should be aware of. We have two dates available prior to Christmas that will ensure there will be no need to freeze your birds. If you have chickens, geese, ducks or turkeys that need processing for Christmas please visit our web site and make a booking. Provincial inspectors are very busy prior to Christmas, we need to know our numbers to absolutely secure our dates. The last lamb date before Christmas will be December 9th. We will be open in the first week of January prior to closing for a month of maintenance and an upgrade that will enable us to handle cattle. We should be open once more in mid-February.

The third Birthday Bash will be held November 14th. This is a critical fund raiser for the Agricultural Alliance. The Alliance is still paying down the cost of the initial construction. Turkey and lamb are on the menu. Tickets can be found at Foxglove. Come and join us to celebrate our third anniversary.

151026 SSIAA Abattoir N14 outlines


By Linda Gilson


I am your regional ( Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands ) bee inspector and owner of Black Horse Apiary - a small scale apiary here on Salt Spring Island .

My job with with the Ministry of Agriculture involves supporting beekeepers in monitoring for disease , especially , varroa, AFB and nosema cerana .I also was lucky enough to have had a second job this summer , with the National Bee Disease Center surveying colonies for national and international disease data.
I support beekeepers in educating themselves and each other and in keeping in top of current research .
The Ministry of Agriculture/Apiculture is offering a beginner beekeeping webinar this winter as well as the bi -annual BeeMasters program at UBC (I completed this program in 2014) .
There is more information about these two great courses on the ministry website .
We will also be offering a beginner beekeeping course in 2016 in our teaching apiary here on the island . For more information about that , stay tuned to our Black Horse Apiary Facebook page .
It's an exciting and challenging time to be beekeepers .I believe that many of the pressing problems that bees face ( environmental degradation, disease ,) will be found by small scale beekeepers . They are the ones who will be coming up with audacious ideas for the future of beekeeping .
Environmental stewardship is linked especially closely with beekeeping . Old ( I mean , experienced ) beekeepers always used to say that white clover was not only a nice forage plant for bees but that it was absolutely essential . Now we know that the oxalic acid in white clover may be available to bees and this is interesting because we use oxalic acid for a mite treatment . ( the same ideas doesn't seem to work with thyme -also used as a mite treatment) .Keep a handful of white clover in your pocket and plant as you go .
I have really enjoyed working for you all summer .
I have had the chance to meet many of the iconic beekeepers on Vancouver Island that I've always heard about and seen so many bees .I have learned something from everyone .
My youngest daughter and her fiancee are in NewZealand working for Pete at NZ Honey .
I'm looking forward to their return and everything they have to teach us .
In the colonies themselves , the bees are slowing down for the
season (although with climate change the slowing down seems less and less) The queen has probably stopped laying and the winter cluster is forming . On a nice day we will still see bees flying out for a cleansing flight or to take advantage of late season nectar sources like the prolific English Ivy ,buckwheat and goldenrod .
I can be contacted at 250 538 8075,or at work 250 882 2852 or for bee inspection or advice please email me.wendigilson@yahoo.ca
Look for Black Horse Apiary on FACEBOOK

It is often said that beekeeping is the poetry of agriculture .

"Go to the bees the poet
Consider her ways and be wise"


At The Fall Fair


by Loretta Rithaler
The Salt Spring Island 4H Community Club was extremely busy preparing their lambs and other projects (Rabbit and Photography) for the fair season. So much work goes into the preparations and this year the members learned about the realities of arranging for transport of animals (that are bigger than poultry and rabbits) as well as the special care that sheep require for showmanship competitions.

The Sheep Project (all 8 members of our 4H Club) learned to fit their project animals for show. This includes bathing, drying, clipping, shaping, health checks, hoof trimming, etc. There was so much to learn but the members were eager to do so and achieved great success in such a short time.

In July and August, the members benefitted greatly from the assistance of our former Club president and current Saanich Sheep project leader, Rosalie Beaudoin. Rosalie gave freely of her time and knowledge to help our members become familiar with requirements for show, health and conformation of their project animal, and care and husbandry tips and techniques. It was fabulous and the experience of learning to “do by doing” was truly visible during these outings.

On August 21st, the the entire club travelled to Pender Island to participate in the August 22nd Pender Fair Animal Display. A former 4H Leader, Barb Grimmer, conducted a mock showmanship event where she shared her knowledge of the sheep project and provided the members with many tips and techniques for success. The expert sheep shear man, Peter DeMooy, took the time to provide extra tips on fitting to our group. The members participated in the Fall Fair Parade, and even came away with a first place trophy for Best Group Parade Entry! It was a fabulous day overall. The crowds were delighted with the display put, and were amazed at the knowledge the members shared about their projects.

Early September brought the members back to their studies at school and preparations for their remaining fair and achievement days. On September 12th, the Photography project submitted their entries to the Open Classes for Junior and Intermediate Photography, at the Cowichan Exhibition. Success was achieved once again! Two members also submitted displays of their 4H Unit work in a special section within the Junior Display – both entries achieved top honours. The rest of the club members also attended the CowEx, to see demonstrations of Beef, Poultry and Rabbit showmanship classes and demonstrations. Fun was had by all and at the end of the day, we stayed to watch the 4H Beef Auction followed by a barbecue, hosted and prepared by the Cowichan 4H District.

The third week of September challenged our members to put the skills they had acquired and newly gained knowledge to work, preparing their projects for achievement day. All members had sheep to prepare, and a few members also had Rabbit projects and Photography exhibits to prepare, not to mention all the work to ready the barn for our displays and guest participants - Whew~! We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge “THANK YOU” to Jerome Wilkinson, who freely shared his time and strength to assist our Club in having facilities made ready for the Fall Fair.

We were delighted to host the Parksville-Qualicum Poultry Club, who were first-time participants in the SSI Fall Fair. Our guests camped at the Rithaler Farm, and both clubs enjoyed meeting new friends, sharing a barbeque on the Saturday evening, and lots of fun. This was a highlight of the year for both clubs and they hope to come back again. As usual, all the 4H members shone at the fair.

The Sheep Project displayed their skills in the Show Ring all Saturday morning with demonstrations and classes of Fitting, Showmanship and Husbandry, which were judged by 4H Alumni, Nigel Irving from Saanich. The kids put on tremendous displays and received a fabulous response from the community, and other visitors to the fair, remarking on their amazement at the level of skill and knowledge of such young people. This is what it’s all about. Nigel noted that he was impressed by the effort of the members in bringing their animals to such a high standard. The large audience at the show ring shared their praise with the members for their physical strength and determination to move and show their animals with such skills – they really thought that “flipping” the sheep to show their underbellies was amazing!

The early afternoon brought the visiting Parksville-Qualicum Poultry Club to the show ring, again sharing their skills and knowledge in Showmanship, Husbandry, Breed knowledge – Rosalie Beaudoin was our 4H Judge and she just could not manage to stump the members with questions. She was impressed with their knowledge and challenged them to another level for next year… they have accepted that challenge!

Sunday morning had the Rabbit Project being judged on Showmanship, Care and Condition and Husbandry by 4H Alumni Danica Jensen. Our two Rabbit members even presented a fitting demonstration for an enthusiastic audience – for their very first time! Danica was most impressed by this impromptu event, as were the audience members who had many questions to test their knowledge.

Sunday afternoon kept four volunteer guest judges from the Saltspring Camera Club to judge the displays of our three photography members’ work which was on display in the portable 4H Photography Building. The judges were impressed by the work and skill level of our young photographers and their remarks resulted in well-earned ribbons celebrating their talents. Thank you to our volunteer judges!

All of these demonstrations and displays are judged and marks submitted towards a members’ project achievement for the year. It couldn’t be done without the tremendous commitment and determination of the members, the patience of the animals and the direction and support of the volunteer Leaders, Judges, alumni and of course family members to assist with the transport and movement of the animals.

Our members have submitted their record books for marking as the last part to meet achievement requirements for their projects. Focus will now be on preparing for our Annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony on November 14th where members, sponsors and community supporters will be recognized for their efforts and contributions to the Club this past year.

A reminder, November is National 4H Member – if you have something green to wear, please join us in “showing your 4H colours”. We are welcoming new members, beginning now, for the coming year.

A special thanks goes to Club Sponsor, Country Grocer, for continuing to support our club and its members with their annual Wheel of Fortune – it has become a real staple of the fair – to the delight of all visitors and especially the grand prize winners. Everyone is a winner!

The Saltspring Island 4H Community Club members wish to thank their Project Leaders, families and sponsors, for the benefit of all their ongoing help and support to achieve success in their project and program work.

Special thanks to our Club Sponsors:
- Country Grocer (Saltspring)
- Slegg Building Materials (Saltspring Division)
- Foxglove Farm and Garden Supply
- Thomas Brainerd
- Big Bear Services

And anyone else we may have inadvertently overlooked. Thank you!

Last but certainly not least, we wish to share a special thanks to our Loose Cannon Leader, Art Falardeau, who is retiring this year. We will miss Art’s knowledge of all things “bird” related – he has shared so much with us over the years. We thank Art for his many years of dedication, hard work and service to the members of SSI 4H Community Club and the farming community…. But we’ll be seeing him at many future 4H events, and we’ll see him at the Banquet!

From the Saltspring Island 4H Community Club,

Thank you for another great year!


Preparing For Show


Pender Fair Parade


Showmanship Practice at Pender Fair


Pender Fair Parade



Ten Technical Terms About Computers And What They Mean To Farmers

Log on: when you want to make the homestead warmer.
Log off: Timberrrrrrrrrrrr.
Mega Hertz: when you not careful getting the firewood.
Lap top: where the cat sleeps.
Hard drive: manoeuvring thought those rocky fields on the northern range when there is snow in the ground.
Windows: what to shut when it's cold outside.
Byte: what mosquitoes do.
Modem: what I did to the hay fields.
Keyboard: where the keys hang.
Mouse: critters that eat the grain in the barn.
Not forgetting RAM [Random Access Memory]: when you can't remember anything at all from earlier.

You may be able to add to this list - if so, please send your funnies to us.


Left trellis shows better growth (with buried hide) than trellis on right

Sheep Skin Uses

By Margaret Thomson
Tanned sheepskins are a luxury item made from only the very best hides. So what happens to those of lesser quality?

Some abattoirs bury their hides and others save them up, salted, until someone can come and haul them away in bulk. On Salt Spring we try to make creative use of all the sheep byproducts, so anyone who wants to try tanning can arrange, for a small donation, to pick up some hides at the abattoir on a slaughter day and try their hand at tanning with the wool on, or if the weather is really hot and the wool has started to loosen, scrape off the wool or hair and make buckskin.

The dirtiest hides with the longest wool are the messiest to handle but the most useful to gardeners. Wool holds moisture and rots slowly, and the nourishment (meaning the attached manure) is a natural slow release fertilizer. In the bottom of a tree hole or at the base of a raised bed they will help feed and water whatever grows above them.

“Pulling” the wool means waiting until it loosens naturally and then harvesting it. Place the hide, wool up, on grass in the shade, and pull gently on the wool every day until it comes off effortlessly. In hot weather this will be a day or two and in winter up to 2 weeks. This is quicker and cheaper than shearing a live sheep, or shearing a hide after slaughter. There is no skirting or sorting needed because you can collect only the best wool that you know you can use.

Hides are really easy to trim to whatever shape you want, so to make luxurious garden paths, which could be multicoloured, cut to the shape you want, and arrange them in a single layer where you need to walk. This provides effective long term weed control and a pleasant surface underfoot. The trimmings will be a valuable addition to your compost heap.

To order hides and arrange a precise pickup time call the Salt Spring Abattoir at 778 354-1111 or write to Contact Us at saltspringabattoir.ca.

IMG 2264

Turnip Envy

Turnip, Potato and Swiss Chard Hash

The humble turnip becomes a superstar in this mildly spicy dish. Serve it as a welcome addition to your harvest feast and watch as friends and family become enthusiastic turnip lovers. If you don't have a large enough skillet, divide the mixture between two smaller pans.

1 lb (454 g) white turnips
1 lb (454 g) yellow-fleshed potatoes
4 cups (1 L) packed chopped Swiss chard, (with stems)
3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
4 oz (113 g) ham steaks,
cubed1 onion, diced3 cloves garlic,
minced2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) hot pepper flakes, crushed

Peel and cut turnip and potatoes into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook turnip for 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.
In same pot, cook potatoes for 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, add to turnip.
In same pot, cook Swiss chard for 1 minute; drain and set aside.
In deep 12-inch (30 cm) nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat; cook ham, stirring often, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add to turnip mixture.

Add remaining oil to pan; cook onion, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, salt and hot pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is light golden, about 3 minutes.
Add turnip mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and edges are crisped, about 12 minutes.
Stir in Swiss chard; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

SSIA Heading

The Morton B. Stratton Manuscript - Cont'd

By Usha Reurenbach

In the last Cultivated Farmer newsletter, you will undoubtedly have read an informative news item, written by Conrad Pilon, about The Morton Stratton Manuscript.

The manuscript has been in the Salt Spring Island Archives since 1993.
It has been invaluable to me, for a good decade.
Salt Spring’s amazing archives is filled with gems, but this one is rare - an almost complete, well-researched, but as-yet unpublished book. And now it is soon to become valuable to all, thanks to the Board of Directors of the Salt Spring Farmers’ Heritage Foundation.
If you feel the need to be reminded of who they are, or to read Conrad’s piece, go here:https://madmimi.com/s/382076

I am a volunteer researcher for the Salt Spring Island Archives (SSIA).
I have been doing this for two decades now.
Once upon a long time ago I was trained in research, in London’s British Museum, a fine pastime for a born recluse, and sustenance forever after for one who becomes a gregarious storyteller.

In the first decade of my close relationship with the SSIA, I used to work in the tiny closet room downstairs in the library (same Ganges location as it is now, but in a very different form). I would often be there all day every day, going through the amazing records kept there in boxes, handling the papers, listening to the taped interviews, turning over the pages of the photograph albums, taking notes in pencil, on paper: this amazing treasure of an archives, the SSIA, had glass negatives of photographs taken in the late 1880’s, and it had reel-to-reel recordings from the 1960’s: these are interviews with old people whose memories can be heard by us all, stretching way back to their childhood memories of old people they had listened to themselves, relating their own memories of life reaching as far back as the days of the first pioneers of Salt Spring Island coming to this, their family’s future home. Of course I became increasingly entranced! And fascinated by this small island’s rich story. (This was before Charles Kahn arrived and created the concise book ”Story of An Island”, from the research of those in the SSI Historical Society before me, who had worked together on what they called the Book Project. Mort Stratton’s manuscript was begun as a mere chapter for that Book Project, but became a stand-alone history in its own right - IMHO as our young put it these days.)

What I was researching back then, for my own interest (I live on the site of the old Divide School) was the Early Schools of Salt Spring Island - the most extraordinary story of a tiny island with no less than eight separate school districts, each with its own three elected School Board Trustees; this due to the almost insurmountable geographical divides between each area of Salt Spring, but also to the island’s history of successive pioneering, in mini-waves of settlers discovering another area in which to create a small community; communities of such variety, above all multicultural in origin, a microcosm of Canada itself, my 'new' home and chosen land.

Here, on a small island, lived individuals mutually dependant on each other. A history of making homes and growing food, of activities centred on the schoolhouse and its students coming together to learn, that brought families together into a close-knit community, each family interdependent on members of neighbouring families.

So my research rapidly expanded into finding out about every family in each community as it arose. Every community relied on agriculture as a means of subsistence, which awoke in me my rich memories of having been born and brought up entirely on small family farms on a succession of continents in countries all within the British Commonwealth; wherever we went, we landed in communities relying on and supported by Farmers Institutes. My first tentative roots put down into Salt Spring soil sprouted when, in 1981, I witnessed the community-building nature of Salt Spring Island’s own Farmers Institute, which in 1981 when I came to visit, was erecting its barn on its land on Rainbow Road: built entirely with community volunteer labour, and using many locally donated materials. I was home again. And here I have stayed, ever since - being a part of building community, around a place where people come to learn - the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, but also starting its small independent school for children, which thrives to this day, as the Salt Spring Centre school. What I was doing with my life took a dramatic turn in 1995-1996: I was disabled, but found that I could at least return to doing research, which had been a direction in which I was headed back in the early 1970’s.

You can see how my own background drew me to Mort Stratton’s History of Agriculture on Salt Spring Island - I loved his sub-title: “Farms, Farmers and Farming”.

I was also in that Salt Spring Island Archives basement room once a week, when the archives would be open to the public (off to one side of the children’s section, downstairs in the old library). On these days, my time would be spent in the company of other volunteers - always Mary Davidson and her cousin Agnes Cunningham, who kept track of what was in that room and what arrived to be stored there to be kept track of; and often with Sue Mouat, a fellow volunteer researcher, to whose indefatigable forays into records kept in other places, the archives owes so much. Mort Stratton worked with Sue Mouat. Then came the even more indefatigable Frank Neumann, who brought the SSIA into the digital world of the Internet, creating for us all the very excellent and easily accessible website, saltspringarchives.com

Morton B. Stratton wrote his final paragraph of his book in 1993. This was before Salt Spring reached out to the Internet, indeed before the Internet was there to be reached out to, although I was making my own forays into what was then known as the World Wide Web at about this time, when the Salt Spring Centre School itself set up Salt Spring’s first email network, called Raven Net, interlinking Salt Spring islander homes, and a few outer island geeks as well, like ham radio enthusiasts, we were. ”Realizing The Information Future: The Internet and Beyond" was first released only in 1994.

Mort Strattons’s note-taking as he pored over manuscripts, leafed through published books, and listened to audio recordings on cassettes, was all in pencil, like mine, and written on cards.

Unlike Mort Stratton, since Frank Neumann set up the SSIA website, I have been able to work largely online, from my study in my own home, to “help identify old photographs, or solve historical mysteries” - my greatest delight - or to “fulfill requests from the public via the Internet”, which is often the most personally enriching aspect of my volunteer contribution to the Historical Society and its wonderful, amazing, little archives filled with an astonishingly rich vein of purest gold.

Somewhere along the line, before 2005, I was contacted by George Laundry, who had discovered that the Island’s Farmers Institute had neglected to celebrate its hundredth anniversary, so could not be allowed to miss its 110th; George was seeking someone who could find out about its history - since when I have added 'volunteer historical researcher for the SSI FI and Heritage Museum' to my volunteer job description.

Well, a throughly enjoyable decade later, on December 30th 2015, the Salt Spring Island Farmers Institute will experience the 120th anniversary of the founding of its origins, The Islands Agricultural & Fruit Growers Association. The name of this association became, over time, the Islands Farmers’ Institute, and now the Salt Spring Island Farmers Institute - all one and the same, a heritage evolving from grandparent, through child, to grandchild.

You can read all about that on page 8 of this year’s Fall Fair Catalogue, if you have kept it - if not, you can find it online at:

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