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In this day of big corporations taking over family farms, it is almost impossible to find a real working farm that welcomes travelers into their world, but such a place does exist. Deep in the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island, Fairburn Farm welcomes you. Here, you will meet the famous water Buffalo and learn how the milk from these creatures is used for mozzarella cheese. You will also learn that because this milk has different properties, it can be beneficial for those who may not be able to drink cow’s milk.
Your accommodation for this holiday will be the beautiful Fairburn Farm and Guesthouse, which was built around 1886. Set on 130 acres of gently rolling hills and beautiful pastures, the five-bedroom house was once a millionaire’s homestead. It has since been home and livelihood to three generations of the Archer family.
Darrel, Anthea, and their children, Richard and Maryann, as well as their their spouses, combine efforts to operate a mixed farming and hospitality business. The house comes complete with welcoming gathering places, comfortable bedrooms, and the requisite of every fine home of that era: a large veranda with sweeping views of the serene valley.
The bedroom windows open to let the fresh county air inside and you can listen to the sounds of the evening as they lull you to sleep. Guest rooms include queen sized beds and views of either the gardens, mountains, or barn yards. Also, most of them have private en-suite bathrooms. Larger rooms include queen size and bunk beds and are suitable for families.
Quite a few years ago, there was a major panic with mad cow disease. The Federal Health Department in all their wisdom decided that the water buffalo just might have it too. The news made the papers and TV; and people from the mainland as well as on the island, took up the sword, but to no avail. You just can’t protest the Canadian Feds.
Even though Anthea Archer had all the lineage from Sweden where the water buffalo came from, and the fact that water buffalo are not related in any way to the bovine family, the Health Department took the whole herd to Alberta where they were killed and then tested. Not one animal had mad cow. Anthea and the others were compensated a bit from the government but they almost lost their farm to bankruptcy. The community took up collections and raised enough money to help them so today they are back up and running. They imported a few calves and started all over.
It was a heart breaking time for the Archers as you may know. These animals seek human attention, almost like a house pet. They are all given names and actually will come running when called.
Arrive at Fairburn Farm and settle into your well-appointed room. Enjoy wine and Fairburn Farm's water Buffalo mozzarella cheese. Dinner is on your own but there are lots of pubs and restaurants in Duncan.
This is where the guide books tell you to bring appropriate clothing for farm life. Before breakfast, have a quick cup of coffee and walk up to the milking barn to watch the water buffalo waiting to be milked. If your visit is timed right, follow your host to the barn to watch her bottle feed the calves.
Then, you will go back to the farm house for the real deal farmhouse breakfast, featuring just gathered eggs and water Buffalo sausages. The Cheers Cowichan van will pick you up at the farm gate at 10:30 a.m. and your day-long guided tour of the food and wine culture in the Cowichan Valley will begin.
Along the way, your journey will take you to the quintessential fishing village of Cowichan Bay, with stops at the famed Cowichan Bay Bakery and Hilliary’s Cheese. There will also be time for the many quaint shops to entice you inside. Then, you will go to Merriedale Ciderary, where you will taste the many hard ciders and sprits fermented and distilled on site.
Your customized tour includes the picnic lunch provided by Cheers Cowichan, dinner at a selected restaurant, and sampling of the many
wineries in the valley, as well as a visit to the tea farm, where they grow tea trees. After your full day of enjoying the many culinary offerings of the area, it is time to return to Fairburn Farm and just listen as quiet descends over the valley.
After your full farm breakfast, it is time to say goodbye to your hosts and to the main feature of your visit: the water buffalo.
During this holiday, Cheers Cowichan will take you on a guided tour of the food and wine culture in the Cowichan Valley, visiting the fishing village of Cowichan Bay, with stops at the famed Cowichan Bay Bakery and Hilliary’s Cheese.The tour also includes a visit to the Merriedale Ciderary and the tea farm.
This culinary holiday will take place in the picturesque Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
This summer Chef Mara Jernigan and her son Julian, who have been preparing a 6-course Sunday lunch at Fairburn Farms for 6 summers, have returned! They are delighted to hold their very special Sunday Lunches once again on the verandah of the beautiful historic home. Lunches will be 6-courses featuring farm fresh organic produce from the Cowichan Valley, ingredients baked in the wood burning oven, handmade pasta and a choice to book a private table or to sit at the big convivial table.
During this holiday, a full farm breakfast will be served daily, and on the second day, a picnic lunch and a dinner at a select restaurant are included. Additionally, wine and Fairburn Farm's cheese will be served upon arrival and different ciders and sprits will be offered for tasting during your visit to Merriedale Ciderary. For all other meals, there are lots of pubs and restaurants nearby.