Colin Rombough’s hard fought dream is finally coming true. After 20 years of saving to become a farmer who owns his own land, the Nanaimo man is now harvesting apples from trees that he and his wife, Kate, planted from tiny buds on their south Nanaimo farm to be processed into cider.
“This fruit has been kind of in my mind’s eye for many, many, many years,” Rombough, owner of Big Bang Cider, told CHEK News.
This harvest signals the first ever for Nanaimo’s Big Bang Cidery, which 40-year-old Rombough has carefully planned and worked towards for decades.
“Every dime I raised for, yeah, the better part of 15 to 20 years,” said Rombough.
He first learned the craft from cider makers in Europe, then bought a Nanaimo farm that was bare hay land, before he and his wife planted all 5,500 cider-specific trees on it, and built a cider house with wood milled from the land.
Neighbour Ray Leitch told CHEK News that it’s been amazing to watch the effort.
“It’s exciting. It’s exciting to see some young generations are taking up the farming again,” said Leitch, who owns a five-acre farm nearby.
Yet, Rombough regrets that a working farm has become out of reach for most young people now, due to the high costs of farmland, especially on Vancouver Island.
The last census revealed B.C. and the Atlantic provinces are home to the highest number of farmers over the age of 55 in Canada.
So, Rombough wants the province to put a high tax on unused farmland, similar to the speculation and vacancy tax on residential properties.
“Because that’s what’s driving the price up and making it inaccessible to young people, is the speculation that ‘eventually, if I sit on this long enough, I’ll manage to get it out of the ALR and I’ll turn it into houses and I’ll make my millions,'” said Rombough.
So CHEK News raised it with B.C.’s Agriculture Minister.
“We’ve seen the success of the speculation tax providing homes for people, so why not make farms for farmers in the same sort of vein? So your idea has merit,” said B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Food, Pam Alexis.
Back on Nanaimo Lakes Road, 20 years of hard work now rests in tanks and bottles of maturing cider that Rombough is excited to share.
“And hopefully people in Nanaimo will want to come and try some local cider,” said Rombough.
Big Bang Cider hopes to have its new tasting room open, and first bottles of cider ready for sale, in the spring.