Evelyn Marsh is new to the Tour of Farms that will bring visitors to her Wallace Drive garden this weekend. But she’s not new to having strangers stroll through her plants.
“We encourage people to walk in our garden, even if they’re not purchasing, just to learn,” Marsh said. “It gives people a chance to see how things grow.”
Marsh Farm is a relatively new market farm on the Peninsula. In 1986 Marsh and her husband moved to 10 Mile Point, adopted and raised eight children. They then bought 10 acres on Mount Newton X Road and two years ago they bought the property on Wallace Drive where her husband said Evelyn could do what she wanted with the back section of land. In March 2010 she started building the garden.
“Now rather than grow children, I grow veggies and fruit,” she said with a grin. “They don’t talk back the way kids did.”
Through the Growing Young Farmer’s program with North Saanich organics educator Dave Friend, known as Mr. Organic, she’s actually doing both. Students from Stelly’s secondary came out during the spring season and helped plant, water and care for the gardens through a foods and nutrition class.
“Growing Young Farmers has proved to be a very successful venture with all the educational establishments who participated, including a home-school group,” Friend said. “Evelyn, her staff and (Stelly’s teacher) Dave Lloyd were all so supportive and totally on board from start to finish.”
“I wanted them to learn the whole process, from ground to production,” Marsh said. “Dave’s teaching the children. My thing’s healthy eating.”
Both hope to have another group of students in for fall planting, and perhaps see some of the produce go back into the cooking program at Stelly’s. The selection is after all a mouth watering one, from celery to mexican peppers and fruit to chocolate mint.
The gardens also offer seasonal flowers, and Christmas trees in the winter. Everything is grown organically; Mason bees, lady bugs and sea soil are among her arsenal of growing tools.
“It’s your garden. I’m just growing the food for you,” Marsh said she tells visitors who routinely make the trek from Victoria to pick from the beds and greenhouses.
It’s one of the reasons she’s on the Tour of Farms, which includes farms on the Peninsula, Cowichan Valley and Parksville. Just like every day at Marsh Farm, guests are welcome to walk the garden with a basket and pick their own veggies or choose from the fresh-picked produce in the sales barn cooler.
“I think it’s good people will find out how stuff is grown and how easy it can be,” Marsh said.
Several farms on the tour will have special events and activities for children. Farms will also have plenty of seasonal produce available and the tour includes some wineries and cideries, offering visitors a taste.
The Tour of Farms is a free, family-oriented, self-guided event that started in 1999. It’s organized by the Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association, a non-profit association of more than 75 growers and producers on Vancouver Island, who sell their farm and vineyard products directly to consumers.
The Tour of Farms is Sunday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Maps are available online at www.islandfarmfresh.com.