by Jo Barnes | photo by Nunn Other Photography
When you think of caring for the land, encouraging growth and well-being of plants and animals and an abiding love for the overall environment, the term Mother Nature often springs to mind.
At one Saanich farm, the “mother,” in this case, has a daughter named Olive.
Jen Madill and husband Jevan are caretakers of Flora & Fauna Farm, a West Saanich flower farm where sustainable lifestyle, love of the land and ardent regard for future generations is top of mind.
“I gave the farm the name Flora & Fauna because this encompasses the things I love: plants and animals,” shares Jen. “The words resonated with me.”
This passion for nature guides planning, planting, methods and marketing. It’s founded on the awareness that such an approach has direct consequences on future farming. The arrival of a child 16 months ago heightened that awareness.
“Olive reminds us of the importance of the environment and keeping it healthy for future generations,” comments Jen.
Here at this farm, living creatures have value in the whole system. A prime example is the six-week-old runner ducks.
“The ducks are great for pest control and their manure is good for the garden,” notes Jen, adding with a smile: “We call them Olive’s ducks. They’re named for different kinds of olives like Kalamata; Kal for short!”
Jen and Jevan are not farming novices. They began farming three years ago, tending a plot of land in Brentwood. Then in 2020, family members approached them with an opportunity to farm the current property to which they enthusiastically agreed. A focus on growing flowers is an idea that has been close to Jen’s heart for quite some time.
“I had a dream of a homestead grow,” says Jen. “I wanted to grow beautiful organic flowers here and to do things organically.”
Jen has had a passion for nature since childhood. She has a love of horses and grew up learning how to ride and care for them. As well, both grandfather and mother were keen about gardening, and Jen participated too as a child.
“We had a tiny plot outside my bedroom window, and I planted zinnias every year,” shares Jen. “I sold the flowers in a little stand.”
Establishing the farm has meant physical demands every day, but that is familiar ground for this couple. Jevan is a full time carpenter, and Jen, a certified electrician, worked years ago in construction.
“In my 20s I went into the trades,” comments Jen. “But I am passionate about the environment and the construction industry didn’t fit well with that.”
Since moving to the West Saanich property, work has been constant. Large swaths of invasive blackberry bushes have been cleared, rubbish removed, driveways built, deer fencing and irrigation systems installed, and soil preparation and crop planting initiated. A natural stream was discovered, so appropriate clearing and additions of attractive rockery helped to take advantage of this natural swale.
Enhancing and building up the soil on the property has been
a key effort. As well as using organic products and a chemical-free approach, crop covering and succession planting are all part of the plan.
“We are trying to make sure the soil is healthy,” says Jen. “We are cover cropping. This adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil.”
It is hard work and long days, but the end goal is worthwhile.
“We put in 12-hour days. We’re trying to work literally from the ground up and build a healthy ecosystem,” shares Jen. But in the end we’ll see the fruits of our labour.”
A variety of flowers are grown including sweet pea, zinnia, snapdragon, sunflower, rose, dahlia, and peony as well as interesting grasses and grains all of which Jen arranges into beautiful bouquets. She finds her work fulfilling.
“I get to be involved in important parts of people’s lives like weddings and memorials,” says Jen. “The product brings joy and brightness to someone.”
Customer response has been healthy. Most receive a share in the flower harvest regularly through a Community Supportive Agriculture (CSA) subscription. They pay a seasonal membership and receive a weekly or bi-weekly bouquet.
“It’s an upfront investment supporting local farmers and sustainability,” states Jen.
Custom orders are possible. For information visit the farm Facebook page, Instagram, or www.floraandfauna.farm.
Flora & Fauna Farm bills itself as a farm where crops are “grown with Mother Earth in mind.” Using sustainable and ecologically-balanced approaches, flowers are lovingly grown and not only inspired by Mother Nature but also motherhood.