Family farming is firmly rooted in the traditions of Salt Spring Island. For more than 150 years, from the initial struggles of the pioneer days, through two world wars, a devastating economic depression, and the collapse of the dairy industry in the 1950s, family farming has been seminal to this community.
The Salt Spring Island Farmers’ Institute was founded in 1895, and is one of the oldest institutes in British Columbia today. The Salt Spring Island Agricultural Alliance is composed of four member organizations: The SSI Farmer’s Institute, SSI Chamber of Commerce, Island Natural Growers and Transition Salt Spring. The Alliance represents agriculture and food security interests on Salt Spring Island, collaborating with others in the community to create a resilient, local food system and make agriculture a strong part of Salt Spring Island’s economy.
Salt Spring Farmer’s Market: Head to the heart of Ganges every Saturday to see the wares and talents of the islanders on display at Centennial Park, from Easter Weekend, or the first Saturday in April, to the last Saturday in October (8:30am – 4pm). The famous and colourful Salt Spring Market offers arts and crafts, pottery, jewellery, woodworkings, fine decorative arts, farm produce, farmstead cheeses, and organic foods, and includes a variety of impromptu musical performances and the occasional theatrical or dance exhibition.
Tuesday Farmer’s Market is a smaller market held on Tuesdays, from 2pm to 6pm, in the greenspace next to the United Church, between McPhillips and Hereford Avenues in Ganges. Market vendors offer local food and produce, mainly fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly-cut flowers, island-grown meat, homemade food and snacks, and unique products like locally-harvested salt. Arts and crafts are only offered at the Saturday market.
Wednesday Market in the Meadow is held in the meadow at the United Church at 111 Hereford Avenue in Ganges every Wednesday from June to the end of October, from 9.30am to 2pm. Wares include homemade food and snacks and artisan merchandise like jewellery, glass work, arts and crafts, and some local produce.
Harbour House Hotel, Restaurant & Organic Farm has a 2.5-acre on-site organic farm that produces over 70 vegetables, herbs and fruit, as well as eggs, lamb, honey and maple syrup. They operate a farm stand behind the hotel, as well as both self-guided farm tours and daily farm tours at 11am during the summer months.
Duck Creek Farm is a 13-acre organic farm with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, greenhouses, sheep, and five acres of forested land. Their products are sold at their stall at the Saturday and Tuesday markets, and they also offer bicycle camping (no cars). Campers choose where they pitch their tents, either in the grassy open on the edge of the woods, or in the forest.
Ruckle Farm Day: Ruckle Heritage Farm is the oldest working farm in British Columbia still owned by the original family. The working farm grows hay and raises sheep and lambs, cows, hens and turkeys, and maintains a large market garden with sales through their own farmstand at the end of their driveway at 1801 Beaver Point Road. Ruckle Farm hosts Ruckle Farm Day in the Spring, a Heritage day of demonstrations of old-style farming and practices such as churning butter, spinning & weaving, horse plowing and tractor plowing.
Salt Spring Island Farm Tour: Visitors can tour over a dozen farms on the island at the end of August for an intimate experience of farming on Salt Spring Island. Enjoy demonstrations, workshops, tastings, meals, farm stands and more! Tickets available at Salt Spring Books and online at www.SaltSpringfarmtour.com.
Salt Spring Island Fall Fair: One of the biggest events of the year on Salt Spring Island is the annual Fall Fair, held on the third weekend of September at the Farmers’ Institute Grounds at 351 Rainbow Road, just outside the village of Ganges. The two-day fair attracts thousands of visitors who attend to see award-winning displays of fruit and vegetables, prize-winning livestock and riding exhibitions by local equestrians.
Bittancourt House Museum illustrates the lives of the early settlers on Salt Spring Island, with displays that include items from the 1880s until the 1950s. All of the items in the museum have been donated by Salt Spring families. The museum is housed in an 1884 house, displaying artifacts, farming implements and antique equipment on the grounds of the Salt Spring Island Farmers’ Institute at 351 Rainbow Road. The heritage building was built in Vesuvius by Estalon Bittancourt. The house was moved to the grounds of the Farmers Institute in 1980 to be used as a museum, with an addition to the original house built by volunteers in 2007 to accommodate the ongoing donation of additional museum items.