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Rashleigh family honoured for a century of farming

The Rashleigh family’s 100-year farming legacy was honoured Saturday with a Century Farm and Ranch Award from the province. A plaque was unveiled at Saanichton Farm on Stelly’s Cross Road to mark the family’s farming history on Vancouver Island.
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From left, MLA Adam Olsen and B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham with Betty Rashleigh and Bryce Rashleigh, who were presented with a Century Farm Award. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The Rashleigh family’s 100-year farming legacy was honoured Saturday with a Century Farm and Ranch Award from the province.

A plaque was unveiled at Saanichton Farm on Stelly’s Cross Road to mark the family’s farming history on Vancouver Island.

Four generations of the family, including Betty Rashleigh, who is 101 years old and attended the event, have grown crops and raised livestock.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the family is a “pillar of the Saanichton community.”

“The Rashleighs have provided home-grown food and dairy straight from the farm for over a century, helping to feed their communities.”

In the wake of the pandemic, everyone these days understands how important it is to have food security, she said.

The Rashleighs grow wheat for Portofino Wholesale Bakery, run a mill, grow barley for Phillips Brewing, cut hay throughout the area and raise chickens and turkeys.

It started when John Stanley Rashleigh moved to Vancouver Island from England, buying his first farm near Coombs in 1913, said grandson Bryce Rashleigh. John returned to England to serve in France during in the First World War.

John Rashleigh married Elizabeth in England and came back to the farm and then relocating to another farm at Qualicum Beach. Their first child was Betty Rashleigh, who remembers milking cows twice daily while her mother churned butter to sell.

In the mid 1930s the family, including son Peter, moved to Central Saanich where they farmed for 70 years.

In 2006 Peter’s son Bryce and wife Jill moved to their current Saanichton Farm, where their three children Peter, Rebecca and Allison all help out.

While praising Jill, Bryce drew laughter from the crowd when he recounted telling her many years ago, “Come to the farm. It’ll be an easy life, I said.”

Bryce Rashleigh, 60, paid tribute to his father Peter, recalling his advice many years ago. “You can have all the equipment in the world but never ­forget it’s the people” who matter.

About 100 people came to the farm for the award ceremony and some flew in from out of town.

As Bryce looked back on the family’s farming history, he repeatedly referred with affection and respect to the many families they came to know and rely upon. Generations of his family and others in the farming community are intertwined through friendship and hard work.

He spoke of the many times neighbours worked together, helped each other out and educated each other in farming.

One friend used to meet Bryce after school years ago and bring out his own equipment to help him on a job of clearing local roadways. “I’ll never forget that,” Bryce said.

The pandemic and this year’s hot weather hit the farming community on and off the Island hard. Bryce pitched in by shipping 26 semi-trailer loads of hay to farms in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. This hay has been critical to the survival of beef, dairy and horse farms. More is leaving this coming week.

The bales of hay have been sold at the cost to produce them. So far $61,000 has been donated to help with shipping costs.

Looking back on the past many months of trials and worry during the pandemic, Bryce said that, “our goal today is that we live in peace and harmony.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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