Saturday 28 May 2011

Fairburn Farm

I found myself on Koksilah Road yesterday afternoon and curiosity prompted me to turn off onto a side road and follow the signs to “Historic Fairburn Farm.”  I followed the road for quite some way, past the “No Through Road” sign and up to the end of the pavement.  I would have turned back at that point if it were not for another sign that said “You’re almost there.”  I followed the twists and turns of the gravel road to its very end, and there I found the farm.

I’ve rarely been in a setting as tranquil as that of Fairburn Farm.  Living as I do at the corner of a busy intersection, I tend to forget what quiet means.  The farm reminded me.  It possesses quiet in abundance; enough quiet that I could hear the breeze in the maple trees and take time to appreciate being surrounded by birdsong.  It’s very beautiful there and I was filled almost immediately with a sense tranquility.  It was wonderful.

Had I visited the Fairburn Farm website before making my impulsive visit, I would have read that they don’t encourage drop in visitors.  Despite its tranquil setting, the farm is a working enterprise.  They like to know when visitors are coming so that they can make room in their busy schedules to welcome them.  I did eventually find Darrel Archer (one of the farm’s owners) though, and he told me a little about the place.

Fairburn Farm was established in 1886 and has been in continuous operation ever since.  It’s been in the hands of the Archer family since 1955.  Since 1980, it’s been run by Darrel and his wife Anthea, as a mixed farming and guest operation.  Their daughter and son—Maryann and Richard—joined the business in 2008.

In 2000, Darrel and Anthea imported a herd of 19 water buffalo from Denmark. Sadly, shortly after the herd was imported a Danish cow was diagnosed with BSE (Mad Cow Disease) and, as a result, their entire original herd was slaughtered.  Testing of the slaughtered livestock showed that they were free of any infection so the Archer’s started over with the Canadian offspring of their original herd and, despite the terrible setback, they have established a successful dairy operation.[i]  

Water buffalo milk is extremely nutritious, with 58% more calcium and 40% more protein than cow’s milk.  It’s a rich source of phosphorous, iron, Vitamin A, and protein, and it contains the antioxidant tocopheral.  Its levels of oxygen are typically 2 to 4 times that of cow’s milk and its levels of cholesterol are 43% lower.  Buffalo milk is easily digested, even by people with cow’s milk allergies, and it’s high in milk solids so it makes excellent yogurt and cheese.  Pretty impressive. 

Fairburn Farm sells their buffalo milk to Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay, where it is made into Mozzarella di bufala.  This wonderful cheese is sold throughout most of BC and also in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Look for it next time you are grocery shopping or visiting a farmer’s market.

[i] Fairburn Farm notes on their website (,23) that there are no incidents of BSE in water buffalo anywhere in the world.

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