Modo Ambassador Quinn’s Favourite Summer Drive
Modo Ambassador Quinn MacDonald is the owner and editor for Concrete Garden, a Victoria-based print magazine about sustainable urban agriculture. She doesn’t have space for a car at her downtown apartment and mainly gets around by foot, but she loves using Modo to go do cover stories about the local food movement for the magazine and explore Vancouver Island’s hidden treasures.
Guest Post: West Saanich Road
While the Pat Bay Highway can get you to Sidney or the ferry in what seems like no time flat—unless, of course, there’s an accident and you’re late for said ferry—I always prefer to take the back roads when I’m visiting the Peninsula for work or just for summer fun. Winding through forests and farmer’s fields, past farm stands, community-made bus stops, and, for a brief stint, along a bend in the Saanich Inlet, West Saanich Road has everything I love about living on this part of southern Vancouver Island, the unceded territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lekwungen Peoples.
Whether you turn off on Mills Road and head into Sidney, or continue all the way up past the Deep Cove Market, which is worth a stop for the sandwiches alone, to Lands End to find a beach, it’s a perfect drive on just about any day, but especially in the summer. Here are a few of my highlights!
Bright Greens Farm
If you’re going through midday on a Saturday, stop in for a visit at Tamara Knott’s Bright Greens Farm—a two-acre farm inside a modified shipping container where Knott grows kale, parsley, and eight kinds of greens. You can read more about her setup and the container farm revolution in the latest issue of Concrete Garden. If you’re heading by on any other day, grab a bag of her salad mix just up the road at Carnivore Meats and More in Brentwood Bay.
ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School
Make sure you slow down as you pass through the TSARTLIP reserve, not only to watch for kids, but also to admire the beautiful ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School. Serving four W̱SÁNEĆ communities—TSARTLIP, PAUQUACHIN, TSEYCUM, and TSAWOUT—the school covers preschool to Grade 9 and provides locally developed teaching in the SENCOTEN language. The grounds house other cultural and administrative buildings along with the PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ native plant and garden program.
Woodwynn Farms is a working farm and therapeutic community for people who have experienced homelessness and addiction—read more about it in this article from Megaphone. This year, they added a year-round farmers’ market to help with community engagement and job training, and, of course, to share the bounty of their farm, including produce, herbs, frozen chicken, and pork from their own heritage pigs. Stop in and say hi, grab some goods, and take a walk through the Peace Garden labyrinth, constructed by artist Deryk Houston and his wife, Elizabeth Wellburn.
If you turn off on Mills Road, past the airport, stop at the Fickle Fig (picture below) for fresh bread or a tasty treat and marvel at their rustic farmhouse setup. Sidney prides itself in being Canada’s bookstore capital, and my favourite is Tanner’s. Located on Beacon and 4th, it has a large collection of local authors and topics, as well as—importantly for me—magazines. After you shop, visit nearby Victoria Distillers for a drink with a view and learn about the sustainable features of their new distillery. If you’ve got your kids or just love the ocean, visit the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. Did you know that Modo now has two cars located in Sideny as well?
Alternate Route: Old West Saanich Road – Oldfield Road
To switch things up on the way back, head down Oldfield, off of Keating Cross Road. While you can find farm stands, flower stands, and fresh eggs all along the back roads of the Peninsula, some of the best farm markets are on Oldfield, including Dan’s Farm and Market and the Oldfield Orchard and Bakery. If you’re coming from the other direction and miss turning on to Oldfield from Old West Saanich, make the most of your mistake by stopping at De Vine Vineyards (6181B Old West Saanich Rd.) for a deluxe cocktail and one of the best, most underrated views in the region.
Feeling inspired to grow your own food? Stop in at Le Coteau Nursery (picture below) on Walton Place for seeds, plant starts, and more varieties of fruit trees then you probably knew existed. Added bonus: they specialize in small-space fruit trees and shrubs for those of us without a yard. If flowers are more your thing and it happens to be late summer, drop by Starling Lane Vineyard at 5271 Old West Saanich Rd. for the most amazing array of dahlias you’re ever likely to see.
These are just a few of my favourites. Chime in with some of yours. Better yet, make the most of these last weeks of summer and grab a Modo from their diverse fleet of over 50 vehicles in Victoria to explore the Peninsula for yourself, supporting its local farmers and small businesses while you’re at it!