‘We’ll miss him deeply’: Family and community mourn Peninsula farming icon Vern Michell

Watch He helped build a successful farm and a thriving farming industry on the Saanich Peninsula. On Monday Vern Michell died at the age of 88. April Lawrence looks back at his legacy.

Terry Michell looks out over the acres of productive farm land his dad Vern helped create over the past 88 years.

“He started ploughing with a horse and plough for his grandpa,” said Michell. “Cleared land with his brothers back when it was not an easy thing to do, using dynamite, the trees were huge at the time,” he said.

Vern Michell was a pioneer in the Vancouver Island farming industry. After mostly only growing potatoes he chose to start diversifying, growing everything from strawberries to pumpkins to cabbage, even trying hemp and tulips at one point.

“Any time there was something else to grow we’d try it, some things worked out some things didn’t,” said Terry.

No matter what it was, Vern Michell had his hands in it all working dusk until dawn with no job too small.

“He would grade apples, he would pick potatoes back in the day we’d pick potatoes, and he would cultivate would be on the tractor, he would tie raspberries it didn’t matter, every job he would do,” Michell said.

And despite numerous challenges over the years he kept a smile on his face. Whether it was dealing with drought, blizzards, or torrential downpours.

“Good farmer but also just a really nice person, big smile,” said fellow farmer Larry Sluggett.

Sluggett says he doubts the area would even have locally grown food if it wasn’t for Vern Michell.

“Vern was probably one of the most valuable people to the farming community in terms of not only his own farm but helping the whole farming industry in this area,” he said.

He loved to share his decades of experience with younger farmers and chat with customers in the Michell farm market where he was known to spend a lot of time

“I always liked talking to him because he always had such interesting information about growing vegetables and things,” said customer Richard Biggs.

Customers have been reaching out through phone calls, emails and visits in the past few days to share their condolences leaving the Michell family touched but ready to get right back to work.

“Life goes on, we’ll miss him deeply,” said Terry Michell.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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