Phil Wilford with his bull at Woodside Farm.

SOOKE HISTORY: A bull at Woodside farm

Woodside farm priduced beef cattle, hay and produce in its heyday

Even though Phil Wilford is armed with a bull staff and nose-ring, this photo kind of terrifies me!  Many are the stories of being gored and trampled by a bull, and especially Jersey bulls, they say. (And I know that at least some of the stories are true.) The low fence here would be no deterrent to an irate bull.

I marvel at how easy Phil made it look, as he controlled the bull that roamed in his fields, master of the dairy herd at Woodside farm. Moving ahead to 2015, the hay has just been cut and baled at Woodside farm for this season, we notice, and we are reminded of changing times for farmers. No bulls today!

When Phil purchased the farm from Arnold Glinz shortly after the Second World War, a number of Sooke farms were shipping milk to Victoria. This bull serviced a herd of some 25 cows, mostly Jerseys, with a few Holsteins and Ayreshires as well. Hefty big cans of milk, well-chilled, would be trekked out to sit alongside the road early in the morning for pickup and transport to a Victoria dairy by a freight truck.

A few decades later, tough regulations had changed the picture, as many farms were unable to bear the cost of modern dairy facilities, and had gone out of business.

In the case of Woodside farm, Phil Wilford went into beef cattle, hay and produce, and also found a need to supplement farm revenue with outside employment.

Phil was a man who loved to farm, as you might be able to tell from his pleasant expression as he seems to be having a conversation with the big bull. It was his desire for a farm on Canada’s west coast that first brought him to Sooke. He was a graduate of Guelph Agricultural College, completing his degree a year after interruption by war service in the RCAF, when he mounted his motorcycle and two-wheeled it across Canada. Phil obviously liked what he found in Sooke and raised a large family here.

While the days of dairy herds and masterful bulls are mostly gone from the Sooke we know today, it is only 70 years since a scene like this was a common occurrence in our rural village. One of the fascinating aspects is that Woodside farm has been found to be the longest continuously-operated farm west of the Red River.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.