2010 Fall Field Tour – Salt Spring Island

2010 Fall Field Tour Experience – Taking a Walk on the Island Side

An article from the 2010/2011 Winter PRSSS Newsletter by Ira Sutherland

What is a PRSSS Fall Field Trip? It’s soil pits. It’s Andy Jakoy in a soil pit. It’s geomorphology. It’s amazing scientists and local knowledge. It’s physically appreciating everything an area of British Columbia has to offer through soil and exposing each other to various fields/applications of soil science. It’s fun. It’s camaraderie and new experiences. It’s a shared love for soil! We had a great group on the field trip to Salt Spring Island this year and had the big yellow school bus as our trusty companion. Now it couldn’t take us up Mount Maxwell (595 m), but we basked in the late summer rays while learning about the geomorphology of Salt Spring from experienced folk like Keith Valentine and gazed up at the towering rock of the island.

From learning about Ted Baker’s expertise in iris bulb cultivation to Brandon’s undeniably important role on the island with agriculture, it soon became clear that the residents and farmers on the island are passionate about not only what they do, but where they live. We saw real life examples of the effects that people can have on their environment in a positive way.For example, Brandon and his team have made areas of land in a valley capable of supporting an amazing range of produce, grains,and ornamental plants, when a few years ago the pH of the soil never would have allowed it. Salt Spring is also full of microclimates and it’s a challenge for farmers to determine the best crops and practices appropriate for each region.

Scrumptious burgers and fresh seafood highlighted the evening. Or maybe the highlight was the psychotic downpour as we were leaving the restaurant! This was perfect timing for our walk back into Duck Creek Farm for those of us who were camping. Our camping hosts were amazing – they invited us all into their home and
out of the rain, started a fire and we went on with playing Dru’s icebreaker game: hold a piece of paper on your forehead with a secret written soil-related term and try to figure out what it says by asking questions of your peers. Okay so maybe I helped the strugglers out a bit with clues. Do you think that “permanently frozen” was too obvious of a clue for “permafrost?” [It’s only slightly less obvious than saying, “permafrost” slowly. — A. Ed.]

Sunday took us to a property on Cusheon Lake – one of 3 drinking water reservoirs on the island – where its residents welcomed our group and took us for a tour. Exposure to a farm that had been a key horse riding facility on the island was an experience in itself, and its location on the lake provided excellent grounds to discuss water management of the lake and current issues around water quality and supply on the island. Concluding with a talk by George Ehring and Peter Lamb in the old covered horse arena just as it began to drizzle was quite fitting and reminded us that, yes, we are on the West Coast.