December 10, 2012 by susanyvivi
The group of us have come to call 6600 Helgesen Road “Helgesen Farm”, although its official name is actually Blue Meadow Farm, or the Wright Farm after its current owners. To avoid confusion, we’ll continue to incorrectly call it Helgesen Farm to be consistent with what its become affectionately known as in our meetings and correspondence so far.
In March 2012, a group of six of us had the opportunity to see the property for the first time. Since we had only been meeting as a small but growing group for a short period of time, we knew we were in no position to purchase. But we saw it as a chance to learn about what to look for and to feel out what features each of us viewed as “acceptable”, and not.
The farm sits on 150 acres, situated in a residential area very close to downtown Sooke. In fact, one can walk from town to the farm (more on that later). It’s bordered by the housing development Sun River Estates to the east, another farm to the west, Sooke Hills to the north and Helgesen Rd. to the south.
Level in areas and gently sloping in others, the land is divided by the salmon spawning Demamiel Creek running through the front (southern) portion of property. There is a farmhouse, a glass greenhouse and many other usable outbuildings on the property.
What really got our attention though, was this fact on the listing: “130 +/-acres in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and 20+/- not in ALR.” We learned that the back 20 acres are zoned to allow housing – providing potential for a small ‘village’ of homes.
While everyone who saw the farm was impressed by its size and beauty, it seemed way out of our reach financially at the time. And since we were still in the very early stages of organizing our group, the idea germinated but nothing more.
Then we got some unexpectedly disappointing news. It had been sold.
We continued looking at other properties but no other land seemed to fit our vision. As time passed, we came to realize that Helgesen wasn’t just a nice little farm on a beautiful piece of property. It was the perfect farm for us.
Then in a seeming twist of fate, we found out it hadn’t sold after all.
Since our first viewing in March, we have been back to see the property multiple times, and weathered the roller coaster of seeing it sell and come back on the market yet another time. Our last viewing was in October 2012 when a large group of us were able to walk the farm with the current owner, Mr. Wright and his son, and ask a long list of questions.
There are many things that make Helgesen Farm so drool-worthy to us, but here are the key three:
1. Zoning. The fact that 20 acres are not zoned for agriculture and allow for a village of low impact, small footprint homes is of key interest to us. A road to the back 20 would need to be constructed to make this possible.
2. The location. The farm is situated in a densely populated location within the town of Sooke. The fact that you can walk from town to the back half of the land is an attractive feature to us. One of our supporters suggested in our last meeting that we propose a walking/biking trail to the Municipality connecting downtown Sooke to Sun River Estates through the property. The idea excited us because it appears to be a win win for all – a win for the town of Sooke to create walking attractions for residents and tourists, a win for the Sun River development to allow residents the ability to walk or ride to Sooke, and a win for us as this will create the interconnectedness with the community that’s a part of our vision – as well as traffic past our future farm store, cafe and community events.
3. The support of the town of Sooke. We’ve presented our vision of The Village Farm at 6600 Helgesen Rd. to several Sooke organizations including the Sooke Planning office. All have expressed enthusiasm about our goal to create a co-operative that gives young farmers access to farmable land that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Enhancing food security in our region is a widely supported topic with many locals interested in getting actively involved. The more we talked about our ideas and dreams with the people of Sooke, the more encouraged we felt.
We’ve been working furiously over the last few months to organize and find ways to raise the funds to make our dream a reality. Our goal is to cooperatively own and operate The Village Farm so the purchase must be supported by many people who would like to be involved in various ways. It is currently listed at $1.9 million.
We understand that among others, developers have viewed the land and that several offers have been made. But to date it remains for sale. We also understand that our intention to farm the land and keep it within the ALR in perpetuity sits very well with the current owners.
We’ll end by saying that while Helgesen Farm has set our imaginations and hearts afire, our dream will not die if we’re unable to strike a deal to purchase it. We are committed to realizing our vision whether it be on this property or another one.
As always, thank you for visiting and sharing our journey with us. We cherish and value all of our supporters, near and far. Until next time.