3310 Jackson Road, Duncan – Iconic Fairburn Farm

3310 Jackson Road, Duncan B.C. – Fairburn Farm

Fairburn Farm was established by Mary and John Jackson in 1896. Widowed, with two sons, Edwin and Basil, Mary sought a purchaser for a portion of the farm. The purchaser, Charles Doering, a successful brewer from Vancouver and owner of the Hat Creek Ranch in the Cariboo, married Mary and developed Fairburn Farm as his hunting lodge with pheasants and grouse. Magnificent heads from larger animals from the Cariboo were displayed on walls. Fairburn was a successful dairy with Jersey cows and Mary ran the farm with farm managers, significantly the Mclean’s after Charles’ death in 1936. Mary died in Duncan in 1950 and son Edwin rented the property until Jack and Mollie Archer’s purchase in 1954.

Mollie and Jack pioneered the first organic cooperative in Canada growing vegetables and meat organically. After the dissolution of the cooperative Mollie pioneered Farm Vacations in British Columbia through the Department of Agriculture bringing families to enjoy a holiday on a working farm. Western Riding Stables was also a source of income on the farm with Darrel training as a farrier in Texas.

Following the retirement of his parents Darrel continued farming joined by Anthea in 1981. Together they raised a blended family of 6 children, operated a Guesthouse for 12 years offering three meals a day, this evolved into a Bed & Breakfast, also hosted craft workshops, seminars and reunions. Fairburn ran over 100 ewes and the lambs were butchered without stress and meat delivered to customers, over 5,000 seedlings was planted in a sustainable forest. Guests and students enjoyed the educational aspect of the natural and holistic farming methods in harmony with nature.

In 1998 research began into a farming venture to ensure continued economic as well as sustainable viability of Fairburn Farm into the next generation. In 2000 19 Bulgarian Murrah water buffalo were imported from Denmark however politics, NAFTA and US cattle lobbying intervened and the imported herd was destroyed in July 2002. The female calves were the basis of the Fairburn herd and the milk was sold under exclusive contract to Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay in January 2007. The inconsistent quality of cheese led to a loss of market share and milk production was cut by two thirds in January 2016. The youngest son and family moved to Quebec with a third of the herd where there is more demand for buffalo milk and a higher price is paid for litre. At the median age of 70 Darrel and

Anthea need a quiet retirement and the decision was made reluctantly to sell Fairburn.

Fairburn Farm is an idyllic location, southern exposure, surrounded by new growth forest land set against the Koksilah Ridge of mountains west towards lake  Cowichan. Kelvin Creek meanders for a mile through the property with a bridge to the other side. Hiking trails abound and the Trans Canada Trail is a quarter of a mile from the boundary. There are 45 acres of irrigated fields, 20 acres of rough pasture on either side of the creek, three houses, a cottage plus heritage and modern barns covering 10 acres, the remainder is creek, riparian zone and forested land comprising 127 acres. The adjoining 3 acres, with house and annex, fronting Jackson Road, is owned by family members but not currently on the market.

Business opportunities include the current Bed and Breakfast operated by a charming hospitable family, water buffalo dairy supplying milk to Natural Pastures and potential for a cottage industry cheese plant supplying fresh cheeses and dairy products including milk and ice cream to discerning health conscious consumers locally and into Victoria with growth beyond. The Cowichan Valley is a mecca for local food production with small scale producers and renowned restaurants some tucked away but always popular.