Nanoose farmers Will and and Jodie Gemmell, along with their daughter, Hazel, take a look at their wheat, newly harvested with the help of Wayne Smith, left, on Wednesday, Sept. 6. — Adam Kveton

Grain interest gaining on Vancouver Island

Nanoose Bay farmers harvest second crop of wheat

While the Prairies may still be known to some as the bread basket of the world, some farmers on Vancouver Island are growing grains locally.

Owners of Rusted Rake Farm, Will and Jodie Gemmell, invited The NEWS to check out the harvesting of their second crop of wheat in two years — something they said was a pretty rare sight on the Island.

The crop, just under four acres, could produce four tons of wheat in a high-production setting, said Jodie, but she added she’d be excited to get half that.

The Gemmell’s have an all-organic farming setup, with much of what they produce going into an eatery/bakery on the farm.

They are part of a grow-local movement that Wayne Smith of Vancouver Island Grain and Milling is trying to encourage. He provided the combine and helped with the harvesting work at Rusted Rake Farm on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Though grain farming has been fairly uncommon on the Island for a while, it wasn’t always that way, said Smith. In fact, Island farmers used to export grain before the Second World War, he said.

This changed when many of the young, working men and women took part in the war, leaving farms without workers.

That is when combines began to be used, which literally combined three processes — reaping, threshing and winnowing.

The machinery was expensive, and with the Prairies producing so much grain, driving the price down, there wasn’t much money in growing grains on Vancouver Island, said Smith.

However, there’s been a resurgence with the grow-local movement, he said. It’s something that he supports, adding that it’s still important to support Prairie farmers as well.

Some of those farmers, as they retire, are coming to the Island and bringing their expertise, said Smith. Nonetheless, the Island is generally not a great place to grow wheat, though crops like oats, barley and rye grow well.

Jodie said Rusted Rake might look at growing oats instead of wheat for their next crop.