A farmer who has been working the land within Ruckle Provincial Park for close to 30 years will get another 20 years at the project with the operating lease for Ruckle Farm awarded to Mike Lane.
When the 529-acre Ruckle Provincial Park was created in 1974, the 82-acre farm property and three heritage homes were reserved for living members of the Ruckle family, who first homesteaded the land in the early 1870s. That area was handed over to BC Parks’ management when the last remaining family member, Helen Ruckle, died.
A request for proposals for the farm’s management and operation was issued in June 2018.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment confirmed last week that Lane Agricultural Management Ltd. was the successful candidate. The news will be a relief to community members who rallied for Lane and his wife Marjorie to remain on site.
“There was a lot of support from the community. It was great to receive that from them,” Lane said.
Lane’s company has operated the farm for the past year under permit with BC Parks, and did so for approximately 24 years previously under the direct management of the Ruckle family. The new 20-year lease will begin Jan. 1, 2021.
According to the request for proposals, BC Parks wished the operating area “to evolve and to be used in a way that maintains the integrity of the property while functioning in a financially sustainable way that benefits the park and park visitors.”
Lane said he hopes to increase production of the food crops (not including livestock), but otherwise the farm will be very much business as usual. They may also host a few more events such as weddings and reunions.
Ruckle Farm’s contribution to local agriculture is well known to the community and to visitors to the Salt Spring Fall Fair, where Lane’s sheep dog demonstrations are a mainstay of the annual weekend’s activities. The farm is often represented in the exhibition section as well — in 2019 they took home the high aggregate trophies for vegetables and field crops, plus best family garden exhibit.
Visitors to Ruckle Provincial Park also enjoy the experience of going through the oldest active working farm in the province, even if they may have to slow down to avoid free-ranging sheep and turkeys. The farm is also home to an annual farming heritage day.