Sunflowers planted to aid local beekeepers at the original farm building on Newman farm. (Contributed)

Sunflowers planted to aid local beekeepers at the original farm building on Newman farm. (Contributed)

Newman Farm renovation on hold but Central Saanich farm still active

Tim Collins/News staff

The restoration of the Newman Farm farmhouse has hit a snag, but the municipality of Central Saanich is intent on overcoming the obstacles and protecting the heritage site for future generations.

The Newman Farm has a special history for the District of Central Saanich, having remained in family ownership for most of the 20th century. The farm operated without the benefit of modern conveniences for most of that period and, in 2003, the Newman family donated the 6.6 hectare farm to the District.

Seven of the farm’s 15 buildings subsequently received municipal heritage designation.

In June, the municipality, having secured a grant of $85,000 from B.C., Canada 150, and a matching grant of $50,000 from the Saanich Fruit Growers, issued an RFQ (request for quotes) to repair the 1905, two- storey, gable roofed, wood-framed building and address issues of deterioration of the log and timber foundation of the building.

No quotes were submitted and now the municipality is considering whether to re-issue another RFQ or simply seek to sole-source the work to a qualified contractor.

Either way, the farmhouse and other buildings, while not open to the general public for viewing as yet, provide an interesting backdrop to what remains an active agricultural concern, albeit one with a slightly different focus.

“I understand that the brothers who lived there were quite the characters. They never wanted any modern conveniences like electricity or plumbing in the house, preferring to keep it the way it always had been,” said Carol Pickup, chair of the Farmland Trust Society that now manages the farmland adjacent to the farm buildings.

“Still, we’re grateful for their generosity in leaving the farm to the municipality. It’s not only preserving memories of the past, but allowing us to address the needs of residents of Greater Victoria today.”

The Farmland Trust first took responsibility for the farming operations on about 10 acres of the site in 2003 and in 2015 was granted a 10-year licence agreement with Central Saanich to continue those farming operations.

But the good news is that, not only is the farm still operated in a in a manner in which the Newman’s would have approved, the bounty of the farm is of real benefit to the community.

“We’ve been able to donate 8,500 pounds of fresh produce to Our Place this year and we’re pretty certain the final total will be more than 10,000 pounds,” said Pickup.

“We’re also working with bee keepers in the area to help the bee populations and have planted sunflowers for the bees. It’s fantastic.”

In addition, Pickup said that the trust is working to restore the orchards on the property and have, at this point, donated the apples from the slightly derelict orchards to the therapeutic riding association so the children can feed those apples to the horses.

“What we’ve got is a combination of the old farm buildings that speak to the past, and the land that is still productive and will be into the future. I think the Newmans would be pleased.”