Living Off the Land – Anneth Farm: Physicians to Farmers

by Jo Barnes | photos by Kathryn Alvarez Photography – 

Home. It’s a place where we can be ourselves. We can putter in the garden or relax in a big comfy chair with our dog by our side.

For Stan and Chris Vuksic, owners of Anneth Farm, their “garden” is a seven-acre plot of land, and when they arrive home they are greeted by goats, sheep, horses and, yes, dogs. On their North Saanich farm, they strive to be dedicated stewards of the land they live on and where they enjoy community connections.

“The farm name means ‘home’ in Cornish. My side of the family is from Cornwall England. The farm name is a nod to family history,” shares Chris. “It is a peaceful environment here but one that is linked into community, so it’s an incredible balance.”

Both retired physicians, Stan and Chris are forging a new path, still with a view to wellness, but now focused on healthy food production and environmental sustainability. For Chris, a former family doctor, running a farm has always been a dream. She grew up in rural Richmond near mixed farms.

“I took one year in agricultural science and spent some summers studying soil chemistry, but I went into medicine so I could eventually buy farmland,” she says.

For Stan, a former anaesthesiologist, farming has brought some new ventures and satisfaction.

“I like the actual work of planning, preparing beds, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, and especially preserving what we grow,” remarks Stan.

Since buying the property in 2016, the couple have worked hard to establish a new home setting. The 1912 farmhouse has been beautifully restored, the barn updated, and the onsite horse boarding facility enhanced with several stalls, paddocks and an outdoor riding area.

“We board horses here,” says Chris. “I love horses. They are the best therapy in the world.”

The one-acre market garden provides a variety of produce, both for their own consumption, and for sale to the public. Their harvest includes tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, heirloom green beans, peas, leeks, squash, arugula, lettuce greens, radishes, blueberries and cantaloupe. Some of the green beans originate from 1930s stock that Stan’s family grew in Europe.

“Stan’s dad is from Montenegro. We grow romano-type beans that are from his family,” notes Chris.

Even the family Great Dane, Monty, is named as a nod to family roots.

By May, produce is available either from the farm stand, through online orders, or, from June through October, at North Saanich Farmers Market.

The farm is also home to a variety of animals including Nigerian dwarf goats, a flock of Cotswold sheep raised for both meat and wool, and laying hens for egg production.

As relative newcomers to the Saanich farming community, Stan and Chris work hard to make Anneth Farm a place where community relationships are forged and valued. To this end, they have opened their doors to others and this has offered opportunities and enhanced the scope of the farm.

“We have a tenant who does a lot of very good wool work and another individual who comes here to do natural hide tanning,” remarks Chris.

The couple also takes pleasure in helping others pursue their farming dreams.

“We are concerned about the availability of land to young agrarians,” notes Chris. “So we are leasing some of our land to them.”

As part of the new move toward greater sustainability in farming, efficiency and environmental care take top priority.

“The irrigation pond has a clay liner and holds rainwater which gets reused in the summer season,” comments Chris.

In addition, a fully computerized drip irrigation system was installed. “Everything is run off a computer system,” notes Chris.

“We can increase the flow of water during a heat dome or reduce it during heavy rains. The drip system means no waste of water.”

With a view to reducing carbon emissions and lowering the farm’s environmental impact, the couple opted for solar energy to meet most of their needs. “We’ve gone solar. It has been a huge installation,” says Chris. “It supplies 80% of our energy needs.”

Building, harvesting and animal care, all while balancing the ecosystem, means constant challenges, but it’s all part of the adventure for this agrarian couple.

“It means so much that we have a place to which we’ve committed, a place which is unpredictable yet reliable,” shares Stan. “You never know what a season will hold, which crops will thrive, and which will fail. But, every year there’s a spectacular success to balance out failures; you have to go with what God gives you.”

There is seasonal planning to do, animals to feed and lots of daily chores, so perhaps sitting in the easy chair with Monty close by will have to wait. It’s another day at Anneth Farm, a place they call home.

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