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Central Saanich family recognized for century of farming

Since 1936, Rashleigh family farms have provided food for the Peninsula and beyond
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Agriculture Minister Lana Popham presents Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Rashleigh and nephew Peter Bryce Rashleigh with a Century Farm and Ranch Award. (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries)

Saanichton’s Rashleigh family has been honoured for 100 years of ranching labour and community service with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries’ Century Farm and Ranch Award.

The award was presented to the family in person at their Stellys Cross Road operation, Saanichton Farm, on Oct. 23

Bryce Rashleigh, the third-eldest child of farm founders John and Elizabeth Rashleigh, said the business has always taken his father’s advice to heart.

“My father once told me that you can have all the fancy farm equipment that you want, but never forget that it has always been the people and the community that make your farm a success,” Bryce, nearing 100 years of age, stated in a press release.

The Ministry echoed Rashleigh’s sentiment with the presentation of their award.

“Four generations of this wonderful family have worked on four different farms over the years and are now such a pillar of the Saanichton community,” said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. “The Rashleighs have provided homegrown food and dairy straight from the farm for over a century, helping to feed their communities. I congratulate them on their award and wish them many more years of success.”

READ ALSO: Sooke’s Woodside Farm honoured for 100 years of agriculture in B.C.

Those years of success began with John Rashleigh’s arrival from Devon, England to Vancouver Island’s Little Qualicum River Falls in 1911. The bachelor farmer bought 16 acres of farmland in the area before serving England in France during the First World War. Its conclusion allowed John to marry his longtime sweetheart, Elizabeth in 1919 and begin a corn, hog and chicken enterprise in earnest.

The couple brought children Elizabeth (Betty) (1920), Arthur (1921), Bryce (1923) and Peter (1927) home to their Melrose Farm. They had purchased their second farm in Qualicum Beach when youngest daughter, Eva, was born in 1933.

The second farm at Qualicum Beach had been razed by fire before the Rashleigh’s purchase in 1928, but sat on a major milk delivery route that soon provided the family’s main source of income until its sale in 1936.

Eldest daughter Betty remembered milking 15 cows twice daily while her mother churned 90 pounds of butter for weekly sale.

READ ALSO: Ag report finds growing challenges, opportunities for Saanich Peninsula farmers

The third Rashleigh farm was bought in 1936 from the pioneer Turgoose family, a member of which the community of Saanichton was previously named.

This East Saanich Road farm was eventually passed on to John’s youngest son, Peter, and his wife Janet, who in 1977 passed the business on to son Peter Bryce Rashleigh, his wife Susan and their three children. That farm was sold in 2006, after which the family moved to the family’s fourth and current location, Saanichton Farm on Stellys Cross Road.

“I was born on the family farm in 1920 and, as a farm lass, my links to our farmlands are very strong,” said Elizabeth (Betty) Rashleigh, who is today 101 years old.

“I treasure many wonderful memories of milking the cows and spending time with my parents, my brothers and sister. I am so proud to see my nephew and his family keep alive our farming tradition that my father first began.”


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