RRU student researching for next generation of farmers
Farming in the present day often means leasing land and having a second income.
Royal Roads University students are conducting a report on farming on the West Shore. The Master of Business Administration students, WestShore Chamber of Commerce and the District of Metchosin are working together to look into the future of farming and how to promote sustainability.
Over the next few months they plan to delve into Metchosin life to uncover successful tips form local farmers.
"We will be looking at the most productive use of land in the community," said MBA student Jeff Townsend. "We are focusing on Metchosin because 85 per cent of farms near rural centres (on the West Shore) are in Metchosin."
John and Lorraine Buchanan, who have farmed in Metchosin for 35 years and hope to be included in the study, have developed a system that allows them to continue their passion and make it profitable.
The couple leases most of the farmland and for 32 years John worked at the Royal Jubilee Hospital as a registered nurse.
"You have to have some security. Young people can't really do it from a family point of view," said John who retired in September 2011.
Metchosin, they say, has unique farming challenges over the rest of Greater Victoria.
"Saanich and Cowichan have good wells for irrigating fields," said John, explaining wells in Metchosin often don't have enough water to irrigate more than two-thirds of a field. "We are also windier, colder and dryer."
The Buchanan's have been sheep and hay farmers since they began and find both marry well with the rural district on the West Shore.
They feed the sheep some of the hay over winter, but most is harvested and sold.
"It's too unconventional if you have to feed the animals hay," said Lorraine explaining grazing animals more cost effective.
The local food movement has helped, drawing new customers interested in knowing where their food comes from or restaurants wanting local food on a menu.
The Buchanan's know they cannot exist on their own and the keep farming around all people included need to work together.
"We need to have enough lambs at the right time to keep the packing plant around," John said. "If the plants fail then the farmer will have nowhere to turn."
While the Buchanan's have already figured out a way for them to continue farming they aren't sure if it'll be viable for their children to take over.
The Royal Roads University students Lisa Makar and Jeff Townsend hope to find a way to keep farming alive in Metchosin and a way to encourage young farmers.
"There was enough work to split the baby," Townsend said. "I will be collecting present day info and figuring out what exactly Metchosin is and what we have here."
"I will be looking a bit further a field, and what business models have been successful," said Makar adding she will also be looking more in-depth into grain mills and abattoirs.
The report will be complete in January 2014 and will have recommendations made by both students. For more information or to included in the study contact Townsend at firstname.lastname@example.org.