Richmond, being located on an island at the mouth of the Fraser river, has some of the best quality soil in all of BC for agriculture. As a result, Richmond's first European settlers (mainly of Irish and Scottish descent) came to the island in the mid 1800's to farm. [Side note: many of Richmond's schools are named after these first pioneer farmers.]
While the boggy lands were drained by ditches and a dyking system was set up to prevent flooding, farming never took off in Richmond to the same extent that fishing did. Still, Richmond was predominately agricultural and remained that way until after the second world war.
Luckily, the Richmond township council were ahead of the game when they decided to designate large plots of land as agricultural reserves. Essentially no development could take place on this land unless it served agricultural purposes. This is one of my favourite things about Richmond. It's because of those reserves that a portion of Richmond hasn't been drained, paved, and developed into suburbs, strip malls or industrial parks. A visit to these parts of Richmond will feel like you're stepping back in time.
As a result, Richmond is unique for these agricultural reserves. It is here where the old way of Richmond life still exists. It's here where you'll find the strawberry fields, the pumpkin patches, the dairy farms, the English riding stables, the cabbage fields, the blueberry patches, but most famously, the cranberry farms. Cranberry farms dominate the north-eastern corner of Richmond as the soils here are acidic bogs; ideal growing conditions for the berry. Richmond, as a result, is the "cranberry capital of the world" because it produces so many cranberries. It's very likely that the cranberries in your juice or with your turkey dinner were grown in Richmond!
Fondest memory: A favourite activity in the summer was to drive to the agricultural reserves in the southern and eastern parts of Richmond to pick strawberries. All you had to do was follow the "U-pick" signs and you had several strawberry farms to choose from.
These farms are a part of Richmond's agricultural legacy.
Fondest memory: was probably during the coldspell of January 1990. I was 9 years old then, and I remember my dad driving my family through the agricultural reserve in our home of Richmond, BC. Seeing the farmland covered in a dusting of light snow was magical. Click on the photo to enlarge it because it truly is beautiful.
My sister and I were enrolled in a French Immersion high school program, which put us in a school several kilometers away from where we lived. As a result, we relied heavily on being driven to school by our Dad. At the time he was teaching at the high school down the road from ours, so our carpool was very efficient.
One of my fondest memories of Richmond is taking the scenic route with Dad and my sister on our drive to school. While we'd normally take the regular fast route to school, whenever we'd have extra time in the morning, Dad would take the route that followed along the Fraser River. It would take 10 minutes longer, but it was worlds more scenic!
From Steveston, where we lived, we'd drive along Dyke Road - literally, a road that followed the perimeter of Richmond. As we drove east along Dyke Road, we'd follow the Fraser River and see the sunrise over the Cascade mountain range on the horizon. During the winter, the sun would appear to rise directly behind Mount Baker - a volcanic cone in Washington state.
The beautiful thing about the drive was that we got to see the Fraser River estuary in the morning, so there were often a lot of ducks, geese, and occasionally blue herons. Sometimes you could see the fishing boats leaving down river towards the ocean. Other times, we could see the bald eagle nests if we looked hard enough at the trees across the river.
What was also beautiful about this drive was that the other side of Dyke Road were farmlands, and in the morning they were often covered with a thin layer of morning fog. The smells in the air were fresh, and it was a beautiful drive to take in the morning on the way to school.
This picture was taken during a rare winter snowfall. Across the river you can see the sun rising over Mount Bake. It's a magical moment my dad captured on film.