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Vision 2012: Agriculture then

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One hundred years ago, the early settlers in Duncan had established farms, had growing families, built businesses and agricultural cooperatives in and around Duncan.

The Cowichan Valley was known as one of the richest agricultural areas on Vancouver Island.

With all this activity, Duncan was an attractive place for wealthy Britons who were looking to try their hand at farming. Remittance Men, as they were called, received funds from their relatives in the United Kingdom to help sustain their farms.

In her memoir, Mr. Chemainus, Joy Lang Anderson quotes her father, Noel Lang.

"Quite a few of the Duncan people were Remittance Men. These were young men who had come out from England and staked a bit of property, where they were supported by their English families while they played at homesteading."

The First Nations people were hired as labourers on the farms. In her memoir, And So They Came To Cowichan, Margaret W. Bishop recalls: "We had quite a lot of Indian labourers on our farm at Somenos, especially at haying time, and when the fields of potatoes were being harvested."

Bishop explains how the duties were divided between her parents.

"Besides cooking and sewing, Mother milked the cows (she told us of milking nine cows night and morning). She made the butter and looked after the poultry. The butter and egg money went a long way in providing the groceries. While she did the milking, Papa tended the horses, fed and watered the stock and did all the chores. It was also Mother's job to cure the hams and bacon."

Bishop also describes the role the children played in tending the farm.

"We girls, as all the others in the family had done before, used to help in the garden and fields, weeding long rows of mangels, turnips, carrots, and helping to drop the seeds of corn and potatoes, to mention only a few of the chores. Do you know that juvenile delinquents hadn't been discovered by then?!"

In 1912, a new Agricultural Hall was built on Government Street. The Hall was the centre for all major town activities, including the Fall Fair and the Farmers' Market, which was established in 1914.

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