Jimmy and Lorraine Campbell (nee Thompson) graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture and have farmed on Saturna Island since the end of WWII. In a recent interview with the Campbells (The Campbells of Saturna Island published by the Saturna Community Club) they describe the beginning of their farming career as an undergraduate project at UBC. Recognizing that fishnet production in British Columbia might be limited by the availability of flax (pre nylon era), a few students decided to find out if they could grow flax and “start a little industry.” Lorraine’s father owned a farm on Saturna so that was where they went. They planted a half acre of flax which had to be pulled to be harvested, an arduous task. Jimmy said, “We didn’t know anything about agriculture; we were just students in agriculture.” They were interested in soil chemistry and bacteriology and “never thought of farming”. The project ended with the seed being used by Professor Biely to feed his chickens, the plants being pulled and burned and Jimmy writing an undergraduate thesis on flax. Lorraine went on to do an MSc in Agriculture working for G Howell Harris on plant nutrition and raspberry production and Jimmy went to the Navy.
After the war and with little experience of farming, the lure of Saturna Island enticed the Campbells to a lifelong devotion to the island and the farming way of life. With a little capital from timber sales, a good garden, cattle, sheep and chickens, the Campbells’ farm became an example of sustainability and an excellent quality of life. They describe how they kept in touch with Dean Blyth Eagles, a “delightful” professor, who said of them “I had two good students who graduated from this university, and they’re living below the poverty line on Saturna Island, and doing well.”
“We were one of his ‘boasts’ about the benefits of agriculture,” said Jimmy Campbell.
The Campbells stated that they learned to slaughter chickens at UBC from Dr Jake Biely, an expert on poultry. For the Campbells this part of their university education allowed them to add chicken to their diet.
The Campbells have been community leaders and have served in many ways. In 1993 Lorraine received a Canadian 125th Anniversary medal in recognition of her many volunteer activities including 19 years on the board of the Lady Minto Gulf Islands Hospital and 13 years as a school trustee. Jimmy also served 12 years on the Gulf Island School Board, 10 years on the Capital Regional District Board (Chair for 7), and 2 years on the Islands Trust.
Over the years the Campbells have hosted students from around the world at their farm. They have had a life long interest in students and in providing opportunities for students from around the world to learn about agriculture, living in rural communities and the marine environment. They had cabins where students could stay while studying various aspects of wildlife and marine biology and working on the farm for brief periods. Biology students who have gone to Saturna to learn about conservation have walked through the Campbell farm and marveled at the beauty, serenity and wholesomeness of this lifestyle. They have petted the lambs and seen a slaughter house and for some this has been their first visit to a farm.
R Blair and CR Nichols, 2008, with contributions from Dr Judy Myers