Seaside Magazine is honoured to celebrate those men who sustain our business community with our sixth annual Men to Watch special issue. We asked Kildara Farms’ Brian Hughes about building
a family business and leaving a legacy. Celebrating the Saanich Peninsula’s Men to Watch.
In the mid-80s, my wife Daphne and I decided to start looking for a small piece of property where we could grow our own food after we became increasingly concerned about what we were feeding our three children: Michael, Sarah and David.
I was working in commercial real estate, and we began our search in the Fraser Valley. It was during this search that I became acquainted with Greater Vancouver’s nightmare traffic problem, which led us to take our hunt to Vancouver Island instead. We found the most beautiful piece of property in North Saanich, one that was significantly larger than we were looking for! We started with 12 laying chickens and three cows, 600 apple trees and a few thousand strawberry plants.
Initially, my brother Kevin and his wife helped work on the farm while I continued my career in commercial real estate in Victoria. Kildara continued to grow, and we got used to the occasional chicken in the living room or being woken up to the sound of cows munching on the patio planters in the middle of the night. The kids regularly had to get off the school bus to herd wayward animals back to the farm, and many of their friends worked for us over the years.
Having a family farm for us has always been a labour of love more than anything. It is early mornings, late nights, watching the weather closely and trudging through the snow to feed the animals. But something about this lifestyle appealed to the children and after their various travels and educational pursuits, all three of them have returned to the farm to work. David runs the salad greens operation, which has grown into one of the largest in British Columbia; Michael manages the animals and field crops; and Sarah recently converted the original cattle barn on the property into a beautiful event space.
Building a family business is a unique experience – it has all the demands of a regular business with the added dynamics of a family thrown into the mix. We have been incredibly lucky to have built a business and life that our children want to continue, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why or how we got this lucky. Working with my wife and children for all these years has been the greatest blessing of my life and I am thankful that I get to watch them take what Daphne and I started and continue to improve it day after day. We are now welcoming another generation of workers to the farm: my nephew Joe from Ireland is back for his second summer working on the farm and my grandchildren are picking fruit for pocket money, just like my kids did 30 years ago when it all got started. We hope to be here for a long time to continue growing great food for our community and ourselves!