Gerry Eddy displays a tray of freshly picked strawberries from her parents farm on Sooke River Road.

SOOKE HISTORY: Showcasing Sooke’s Farms

Strawberries once a mainstay on Sooke region farms

Never wavering in popularity, Sooke Fall Fair demonstrates the wholesome, down to earth values that have traditionally been so dear to the hearts of the people of our district.

The strawberry farm shown here in the late 1950s belonged to Arthur and Elaine MacFarlane, located just west of the Sooke River bridge.

Displaying her tray full of luscious strawberries was Gerry Eddy, eldest of the three lovely daughters of Bill and Dorothy (Doey) Eddy of Sooke River Road.

Picking berries was a handy way for young girls to earn pocket money in their high school years. Pickers were paid pennies a hallock, and 24 hallocks made up a crate. We’re not sure how many farms are growing strawberries and raspberries in the area today, but in the 1940s and 1950s they were a popular crop.

Behind Gerry in the photo, three other pickers can be seen, while Phillips Road would be at the top of the hill in the background. The museum wasn’t there in those days, but its location would be top left corner of this photo.

Another interesting difference between gardening then and now, was that deer lived in the woods at that time, and were seldom seen in village yards.

Loading up their Suburban and their pickup, heading for Saanich, Arthur and Elaine MacFarlane sold their berries to a specialty produce wholesaler, who distributed them at premium prices to selected customers. With the population Sooke has today, one could imagine they would be easily gobbled up by local customers.

One of their proudest deliveries was when they were chosen to supply visiting royalty staying at the Empress Hotel. It was in late June 1959 when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were in Canada primarily to open the St. Lawrence Seaway, that this distinguished strawberry shortcake meal took place at the hotel.

Their berry crop was British Sovereign, and MacFarlane’s only son, Douglas, recalls that his parents were especially proud as well that the rich earth of their riverfront farm was able to produce a berry that weighed in at three quarters of a pound.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.