by Jo Barnes | photos by Kathryn Alvarez Photography –
We all know successful farms raise great crops and livestock, but we don’t always think about the role a farm can play in raising children.
Situated in the beautiful Oldfield Valley, Mulhaven Farm is a place where family and farming are tightly woven.
“Running a small-scale farm is a great way to raise your kids and be connected as family,” shares Adam Sherk.
Since purchasing the property in 2016, Adam and his wife Kailyn have spent countless hours establishing their farm. Along the way, they are also raising two young sons – five-year-old Cameron and three-year-old Benson – both of whom are closely involved with the daily farming lifestyle. “The kids see how we live,” says Kailyn. “I had little Cameron in a backpack while I was doing gardening, and he would be in the playpen watching the chickens running all around.”
Mulhaven Farm is a mixed farm. “Currently, we have a large veggie and flower garden and a two-acre orchard that’s entering its fifth year,” remarks Adam. “We also have about 50 laying hens and usually alternate raising pigs and turkeys every other year.”
Product is sold at their farm stand and Saanich Farmers Market or North Saanich Market. You can also order via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traditional, manual methods are used with an eye towards sustainability. “It is a true small-scale farm, with very little mechanization,” notes Adam. “Almost all of our work is done by hand, and this way we have to be selective about the types of trees, crops and animals that we bring on.”
The fact there are young children present guides the approach to farming here. “We have kids and pets, so we don’t like chemicals used here,” says Kailyn. “We use organic straw and hay as bedding for the animals and chicken manure for soils beds and gardens.”
There is always work to be done, and everyone pitches in. “The kids collect branches after a windstorm, pick up produce for dinner, or go out to the barn and check on the chickens,” comments Kailyn.
Growing up on a farm lets the young boys connect what’s on the dinner table and what’s out in the fields. “We want to make sure they know how food is grown,” shares Kailyn. “The boys can identify the produce. They’re learning about the seasonality of food – that we eat certain foods in a particular season.”
The children also learn to be responsible. “They don’t view chores as work but as contributing to the household,” says Kailyn.
Often, farm tasks are a way to bring the family closer, especially when they have to work together. “A week ago, Kailyn, our boys and I had to move 50 laying hens from one coop to another after dark. The boys had the time of their lives, opening the doors for us as we hurriedly caught the hens and ferried them from one coop to another,” relates Adam.
The farm lifestyle is definitely a choice. Adam grew up in farm country, and Kailyn has vivid memories of visiting the family homestead in the prairies. It is a way of living that they relish.
“I’ve always preferred the countryside to the hustle and bustle of cities and towns. I like smaller places and tight-knit communities, where I know all my neighbours and talk with them,” says Adam. Kailyn adds: “I am drawn to the lifestyle. There is so much satisfaction in growing things and gathering a store of food to provide for our family.”
Years ago, they worked a small hobby farm in Brentwood where they honed their skills of planting, pruning and the processes associated with growing fruit trees and vines. In 2015 they purchased their present property and moved in the next year. Rotted trees were removed, a pond and swale added, 120 fruit and nut trees planted, an efficient watering system installed, and the family home was renovated.
By day, Adam is a scientist in Public Health at UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, and he fits farm tasks around this work. Kailyn left her government job in 2022 and now dedicates her days to the work of the farm and family. It’s a choice that has provided better work-life balance.
“I never knew I could do this,” she says. “It is a miracle to watch a plant grow from a tiny seed and to reap the benefits at the other end.”
Adam adds: “Farming is a way of being connected to the land and your place with it, while at the same time doing something beautiful, productive and healthy.”
Young plants are sprouting, chickens are laying eggs, and, in the midst of it all, enthusiastic little boys are growing too. It’s a new season at Mulhaven where Adam and Kailyn Sherk really put the “family” into the family farm.