Community spirit and natural landscapes define the quality of life on the Saanich Peninsula

You could say that Kelsea Bissenden leads a double life.

She works a desk job with a large pension service provider. But once out of her home office in Sidney, you’ll likely find her in Central Saanich, working on the farm that’s been owned by the Bickford family since the 1920s.

It’s a big part of his life, especially during the summer when the days are long and the family gatherings are many.

“Farming on our family farm is something we will never take for granted and we feel very lucky to have,” she said. “Some of our fondest memories come from being on the farm. It’s a place that brings everyone together around a common goal and it’s very rewarding at the end of the season to see all the hard work pay off. .

But Bissenden is still surprised when she tells others about the farming part of her life and that the farm itself is now part of a larger business operation that includes a construction company.

“For us, we want to have a balance between farming and our other lives,” she said. “We all have different jobs, none of us do it full time.”

As such, the farm and the family behind it speak to the history of the Saanich Peninsula as a rural farming region, but also its development into something more urban, a transition welcomed by some, while d others reject it.

Many would say that it is precisely the current mix of rural and urban that gives the Saanich Peninsula, as represented by its three municipalities, its special flavor.

When asked what he would like to see improved in maintaining or even improving the quality of life on the Saanich Peninsula, Sidney resident Kenny Podmore offered this answer.

“You might not like the answer I’m going to give you, but I won’t say anything,” he said.

Podmore, a citizen of the United Kingdom, first visited Sidney in 1997 before settling in late 1998. Podmore said Sidney’s natural beauty is unparalleled. “For me, there is no place like this,” he said. ” I have travelled a lot. It is simply magnificent. It still maintains the small town feeling, even with the development.

Podmore, who is perhaps Sidney and area’s biggest cheerleader due to her role as Sidney’s town crier, also praises the area’s community spirit. “It shows up with the local organizations, the events that are being held,” he said. “And when I talk about community spirit, the three municipalities always come together and help each other. It’s one of the things I love about this place.

Longtime Sidney resident Elyse Barkley, who co-owns two businesses in Sidney, agrees with Podmore. “I love how everyone is so quick to help and support each other,” she said. “The scenery is beautiful, but the number one thing is the community and everyone is so community minded.”

She also likes the visual mix of the community. “You can be downtown, shopping and then end up on a beach at the end of the road,” she said in reference to Beacon Avenue.

Like Barkley, Ryan Trelford grew up on the Saanich Peninsula, in his case in North Saanich.

“The first thing I share with people is that we are on the ocean,” he said, when asked what he tells people when they ask him questions on North Saanich. “We are surrounded by water on three sides in North Saanich and for me a big part of my growth and still to this day is being on the ocean, either boating, swimming, being on the beach, to fish. It is truly a part of our community and what makes us West Coast. This is the special part of North Saanich.

Trelford grew up near Dean Park. “(It was) a quiet, still rural area,” he said of his youth, recalling playing near Sansbury Primary School, now Allegro Dance Studio. “A lot of kids around. It was an exciting time being young. There were parks, where you could go for a bike ride without worrying too much about traffic.

Overall, North Saanich hasn’t changed much, Trelford said. But the prospect of future growth has caused much anxiety in the community, as evidenced by the divisive tone that accompanies the current review of the Official Community Plan (OCP).

“As I got older, I’ve experienced a lot of arguments. North Saanich seems like a pretty dramatic place with people who are pro-development and anti-development,” he said. Trelford said he can relate the desires of those who do not want development because they want the community to retain its rural character. But he also expressed his understanding for those who would like to see more housing and ultimately more families in the area as other parts of Greater Victoria are becoming more inaccessible.

“To make North Saanich a better place, we all have to try to get along a little better, to have a conversation, rather than arguing right away,” he said.

Looking ahead, a growing chorus of voices warned of difficult times ahead. Unless the area begins to provide more affordable housing, local businesses will find it increasingly difficult to find staff. The Saanich Peninsula already tends to be older than the rest of Greater Victoria and available data shows that families with children and adults in their early earning years prefer the more affordable West Shore. Yes, the area is growing, but not at nearly the same rate as other parts of Greater Victoria.

Other challenges are also looming. They include the effects of climate change, something Bissenden and his family have experienced first hand. Consistently delivering water to their crops has been a challenge, she said. “Like last year, our crops were very dry,” she said.

But despite all the current and future challenges, Bissenden said his family has no intention of quitting farming, even if it was just a side business, balanced with full-time jobs. and children.

Ultimately, the whole job is to preserve something greater.

“We want our kids to have it as something they can do with us,” she said. “Our greatest reward is being able to keep the family name and the farm alive in our community by perpetuating them over the years.

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Saanich Peninsula