British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast has a long history of farming and agriculture. In 1915, 32 farmers in Powell River founded a farmers’ institute to improve the conditions of rural life.
On October 23, 2014, the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s Agricultural Area Plan identified the formation of a Farmers’ Institute as a strategic goal.
On December 11, 2018, a group of farmers met about the idea of creating a local farmers’ institute.
Five people came forward after the meeting to be subscribers and complete the SSCFI application; Raquel Kolof, Robin Dutcher, Jill Hemmings, Shannon Vanderwoerd and Steve Reed.
Our application was submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Superintendent of Farmers’ Institutes and on December 20, 2018 our incorporation was granted and we became the Southern Sunshine Coast Farmers’ Institute.
President – Mel Sylvestre
Vice President – Julie Carrillo
Director – Alisha M’Lot
Director – Mary Degan
Director – Erin Dutton
Auditor -Erin Goh
Treasurer/Membership/Website – Robin Dutcher
History of Sunshine Coast Farmers’ Institutes
Thank you to Marilyn Giesbrecht of Suncreek Farm for sharing her research paper on the History of Farmers’ Institutes on the Lower Sunshine Coast. Did you know that the first community organization on the Sunshine Coast was a Farmers’ Institute and it began in 1911! Here is an excerpt from her paper. A copy of the paper is held at the Gibsons Library and Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives.
The Howe Sound Farmers’ Institute 1911-1990
The Howe Sound Farmers’ Institute was the first community organization on the Sunshine Coast, forming in 1911 with a membership fee of 50 cents, and ending about 1990 with 7 members, following a high membership of 90 in 1912. The BC government in 1897 sought “to educate farmers in scientific and agricultural methods so that agricultural production of the province might be developed and that farming might become a feasible economic enterprise for rural settlers”. A central purpose locally was the cooperative purchase of stumping powder at a reduced rate for the purpose of clearing land for building, agriculture and logging, as well as the wholesale purchases of agricultural lime, feed, seed, berry plants, breeding stock, fertilizer, machinery, and other supplies. At their monthly meetings, members promoted the theory and practice of farming by expert speakers from the BC and Ottawa Departments of Agriculture as well as by local experienced members speaking on such topics as bee keeping, curing pork, berry growing, etc. They distributed free Dept. of Agric. literature in horticulture and animal husbandry. They operated an artificial insemination service and,at times, a Farmers’ Market where members could sell their produce. The Howe Sound Farmers’ Institute founded and operated the Howe Sound Cooperative Canning Association in 1921, lasting until 1955, where members grew berries on their properties for the jam cannery on Henry Road in Gibsons. Their jam was marketed through the Malkin Co. and in 1921, their strawberry jam labelled “Gibsons Pack” won the British Empire trophy in competition. As well, they operated Fall Fairs with prizes from 1918 to 1968, and sponsored youth 4-H Junior Dairy, Beef, Poultry, and Garden Clubs for many young people over the years, some of whom developed careers in agriculture.
Another goal of the HSFI was to promote community pursuits. Thus, members started a rural lending library service, wrote letters to governments regarding local needs such as road work, the building of the Port Mellon Highway (1953), installation of road signs, house numbers, support letters for the local Victorian Order of Nurses, telephone pay station on North Road, the building of a Gibsons liquor store (1949), hiring of a wharfinger, pressure for a garbage collection service, meal service on BC Ferries, the establishment and maintenance of the Mount Elphinstone Cemetery on Cemetery Road (1917), and encouraging the donation of bush land on Park Road in the 1950s by the logging Jackson Brothers, and the eventual Centennial Project in 1967 of Brothers’ Park, eventually taken over by the Village of Gibsons. The HSFI also donated funds for the Kiwanis Village Senior Citizens’ Home in 1970, along with other community groups and individuals. “They were very community-minded men and women,” said 1990 President Cecil Chamberlin and long-time member, when he was interviewed, citing donations of money, bursaries, time and services to countless community groups and individuals, young and old, over the seventy-nine years it existed. The Howe Sound Farmers’ Institute played a large part in the growth and improvement of the Sunshine Coast.”