Elia Zanon, farmer of Manna Farm (at 2590 Sahilton Road) in the Cowichan Valley, is not only a steward of Fort Properties' farmland but she is also a steward of food security on Vancouver Island. With a variety of fruit and vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, nuts and grains, poultry, eggs and maple syrup (and plans for more to come in the future), Elia grows and raises local organic foods all year round. If she’s not at the farm, you’ll find her at the Duncan Farmers’ Market every Saturday.
Name: Manna Farm (Elia Zanon)
Type of service: Providing fresh, organic food!
Operating since: 2016
Number of staff: 3
I opened my business because … for so many reasons: I want to produce and provide clean, trustworthy, nutritious, truly organic food. I want to contribute to the protection of farmland and our greatest resource: soil. I want to treat the earth and its people the way they deserve. I want to work outside everyday, be physical, get my hands dirty, push myself, eat healthy, and be happy.
Since opening we've … grown more than just food—we've grown a baby! Cleverly timed, our daughter Aela was born last December. She now spends her days out on the farm, napping in the fresh air and accompanying me with all farm work (harvesting, seeding, caring for chickens, etc).
I love living and working in the Cowichan Valley because … of the divine nature and the big-hearted community. I grew up in a city and never thought a place like the Cowichan Valley existed. With so many rivers, lakes, mountains, forests and being surrounded by the ocean, for a water and nature lover it feels like paradise. Plus, being a part of a small, friendly community has been a true joy. Especially with the birth of our first child, it has been really amazing realizing that she is already loved by so many. We are really grateful to raise a family here surrounded by a lovely community both in life and work.
My favourite seasonal activity is … Sugaring! We make Bigleaf Maple Syrup as a major part of our Full Diet CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program. We love sitting by the evaporator on cold winter days sipping maple sap amidst the sweet scent of syrup in the making.
What features do you love most about the farm property? The view and the resident eagles! We feel so fortunate to be farming prime Cowichan soil, but it would not be the same without the amazing view and the resident eagles watching out for us. We have amazing views of both Mount Prevost and Mount Tzouhalem, and we cannot help but stop what we're doing to admire the eagle family's overhead flights and love hearing their unique calls throughout the day.
What “Words of Wisdom” would you give to yourself five years ago? Don't underestimate the power of networking. I, nor our farm, would be where it is today if it wasn't for the wonderful people I've met along the way. Not only have these folks been personally and professionally influential but they remain great friends, we're truly lucky to have them.
All images by Kelly Brown.