Strawberry fields forever at Bruce Fairbairn's place
Organic strawberries are Bruce Fairbairn's passion.
The retired Chemainus mill worker and delivery driver tends his home-based patch all year at 5813 Banks Road.
Not a blade of grass stands at Bruce's Berries; about 1,000 strawberry plants have replaced sod in his quarter-acre yard.
You could say it truly is strawberries fields forever at Fairbairn's.
"Basically, it's a four-season hobby, and I fill a void for strawberries for the people of Duncan.
"I started in 2002 when my (late) wife (Pat) was here and gave me the go ahead," said Fairbairn, 68.
He loves the exercise from tending his yard that's yielded some 700 pounds of strawberries so far this season.
"Customers have the option of coming here, or going to Westholme (Russell Market)."
Folks also have options of buying berries picked by Fairbairn, son Kurt and a few others, or picking their own at what may be Cowichan's largest residential, organic strawberry field.
"It's $4 a pound if we pick, and $3 if you pick," he said, stressing his berries are chemical- and fertilizer-free in keeping with the valley's organic food-sustainability push.
"No chemicals are used here, for consumer safety. I don't have any serious insect invasions, just slugs and snails. "You can spray for mildew, but there's really no reason to spray strawberries — you won't kill many bugs, and it's dangerous for the environment."
Fairbairn organically feeds his fields aged peat, horse, steer and chicken manure, plus worms and home compost.
He began selling his fruit about three years ago, slowly gaining loyal customers, and folks casually driving by and wishing to buy locally. People are welcome, deer aren't.
"I put down rock, between plants, from Hillside and it's kept the deer out; they don't like walking on rock on uneven ground."
Meanwhile, this year's season is "10 out of 10, so far."
"The weather's been perfect for the plants. They require frequent deep soaking and sun," he said of his berries blooming between late May and late July.
Fairbairn encouraged retired folks to plant home gardens.
"It's a great hobby for retirement to grow organic food, if you've got enough room. It's something we should all do, and we can get rid of California imports."