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New owner, old name for Peninsula farm

The new owner of what was once Vantreight Farm has renamed it Longview Farms and is keeping on all 15 full-time staff.
Daffodils pickers work the fields at the former Vantreight Farm near Wallace Drive in February. The land produces Canada's largest daffodil crop.

The new owner of what was once Vantreight Farm has renamed it Longview Farms and is keeping on all 15 full-time staff.

Employees include Ryan Vantreight, 37, a fifth-generation farmer on the land who is staying on as general manager and head of sales and operations at 8277 Central Saanich Rd.

“Basically the things we do best we are going to continue to do, but as Longview Farms,” Vantreight said.

Longview was long the local name for the Central Saanich property and is what Vantreight’s grandfather used to call it, based on the view from the site.

Vantreight said organic farming operations will continue and grow. “I’m happy to be moving forward, happy to be expanding on the program and happy to be doing what I’m passionate about. I am very lucky to be able to do that.”

New ownership and the name change mark a new start for the farm. Ian Vantreight, Ryan’s father, battled for years to keep the family farm economically viable and intact, eventually buying out his brother for an undisclosed amount in 2006.

But financial and other troubles plagued the farm. It weathered a controversial rezoning that would allow housing to be built on a rocky portion of the site. Two fires broke out on the property, one in 2012 which destroyed a storage shed and another in a compost area in August.

In September, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered 270 acres sold for $8.5 million to Westerkirk Capital Corp under a bank foreclosure. Westerkirk is headed by local resident Sherry Brydson, a member of the Thomson family and considered to be Canada’s wealthiest woman with a reported net worth of $6.6 billion. Westerkirk also owns aircraft manufacturer Viking Air in North Saanich.

Ryan Vantreight noted that the sale was for land and buildings — not the Vantreight Farm business, which is not operating. The Vantreight farming legacy goes back to 1884, when John Vantreight arrived from Ireland to set up a farm in Gordon Head.

“You can imagine that my family is in a state of reflection and healing at this time. It’s been a long road,” Vantreight said.

He said the focus at the farm now is “what do we need to do today to set up more success for the future?”

As of this year, all the food crops on the farm is certified organic, Vantreight said.

Greenhouses produce fruits and vegetables on 3.5 acres for about 90 per cent of the year and plans call for year-round production, he said.

The farm has 150 acres certified organic, with 50 to 60 acres of that used for crops. “We’ve expanded the organic program to have rotation into the future. Before we go into another field, we have to make sure it is organic, so we’ve pre-certified fields to do the rotation.”

Other crops, such as daffodils, are grown on about 100 acres and are also slated for expansion. Traditional crops such as grains and hay will continue as well.

As usual, the farm will need between 150 and 200 pickers in the spring for the daffodil crop, Vantreight said. Throughout one year, the operation can hire 500 to 600 workers.

Along with Vantreight, the other family member working on the farm is his brother-in-law, Ivan Flora, head of maintenance.

The name Longview reflects the past and future. The name also looks to the future with its new owner, Ryan Vantreight said.