Holly Hill Farm is located in a small rural community on Vancouver Island about 10 minutes (by car) from the Duke Pt ferry that travels to the BC mainland just South of Vancouver. The farm has about 26 acres of pasture/forage land, a 2 acre woodlot, a small house, a mobile home and several large barns. It mainly produces sheep and forage.
This is a working farm (not a hobby farm) which means it is both a business and a lifestyle. Throughout the year there is wide range of farm field work to be done primarily to produce the grass/hay that is the sheep’s primary source of nutrients. Growing good nutritious grass is not as simple as just watching it grow it is a science and requires a lot of knowledge. Looking after the soil is really the prime concern, but also knowing when and how to produce good hay is a combination of luck (when it come to weather) and skill.
The primary breed of sheep here is Dorset and they breed all year without the use of hormones which means lambs are born year round. There are always sheep of various ages on the farm. The sheep are the heart of this farm and their care and protection the farm’s primary concern. Raising livestock means there are no days off (unless you can afford hired help....something to strive for on this farm). There are numerous things to do from tractor field work, to record keeping which for sheep that are on a year round breeding schedule could be a job in itself. Livestock do best when a strict routine is adhered to and feeding twice a day means any time off (AKA time to do other farm work) is likely to occur mid-day if at all. In addition to twice a day feeding there are many other sheep related chores such as foot trimming, vaccinating, accessing condition and making decisions about breeding. If the weather and other issues are appropriate putting them in and out of the barn and of course looking after the lambs which requires specially care and a lot of observation to be sure they are all thriving and healthy.
Just as the sheep do,"Agriculture" also needs care and attention and like many areas of the world, Vancouver Island imports the majority (about 90%) of the food consumed here. Considering some of the very best farm land in Canada is located on this Island this is a troubling situation. Very small scale “farms” that exist for lifestyle purposes only are great but they are not going to ever be sustainable because no one can make a living off a 1/4 acre garden or a couple of cows. To be sustainable farms must be able to support themselves, and it must be done in an ethical, environmentally friendly fashion. Soils that have been abused (such as are found in many areas on Vancouver Island) by taking hay off year after year without returning nutrients need attention to bring them back to their former level of fertility. And what little infrastructure remains on Vancouver Island the service the agricultural cummunity need to be supported and kept vibrant if any real agriculture is to continue here. Without a feed mill or an equipment dealer it is questionable if food production on any scale will continue. Farms that are aided by large number of volunteers are llikely not going to servive long term.
Farming is not for those who do not want to invest of themselves to make it work. Farming takes hard work, the willingness to learn about many things and the energy and enthusiasm to do them. It is never boring and it is highly rewarding because all the successes (and failures come to that) are of your own making. I cannot imagine even wanting to do anything else. I am a farmer and it has been my life’s goal to be a good one. I take great pride in the care I give my sheep. They reward me with lots of lambs that are fast growing and healthy. For you this means the opportunity to enjoy what I’ve been told many times is likely the best lamb you will ever eat; young, mild flavoured, meaty and tender. I would love to add you to my list of people that enjoy my lamb on a routine basis. Producing quality meat from healthy well cared for animals is what I do best.