Thrilling tales of farming in the rain forest

I recently visited the edge of the continent, Haida Gwaii, and was surprised to see and read of such a rich agricultural history in a place so removed from the usual hot spots of farming. 


Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago of two large islands and 150 smaller ones off the north British Columbia coast.


Granted, its main enterprises are, and have always been, forestry and fishing, but there is a surprising amount of farming going on there.


The Misty Isles Economic Development Society has come up with a agricultural plan you can find at bit.ly/SXZtyQ.


The islands have a fascinating agricultural history.


The winters are mild, 5 C is considered cold, but summers lack the heat for larger scale fruit production. However, potatoes and many other vegetables grow well.


One of my favourite entries from a collection called Growing Food on the Queen Charlotte Islands, featured this clipping from the Vancouver Daily Province, Sept. 23, 1955. These are excerpts:


“Wild cattle in the Queen Charlotte Islands are multiplying so rapidly that they may become a public menace, according to Thomas G. Stewart, well-known livestock man employed by the Dominion Government livestock branch.


“For many years it has been know that cattle have gone wild on islands in the Queen Charlotte group. Stories have been told by loggers, sailors and fishermen of the presence of the wild herds there. 


“Often the stories are so colorful that they were regarded more in the way of legends than reports of cold facts. But the cattle are there. Mr. Stewart has seen them. They are multiplying rapidly, so rapidly that something should be done about it.…


“Hereford cattle were brought to the island by a settler named Cesare. … The Angus cattle were brought to Graham Island by a settler named Baker.… Jerseys were brought in by another settler whose name Mr. Stewart does not recall, but who now lives near Lac La Hache. A man named Mexican Tom brought a carload to the island, but Mr. Stewart does not recall the type of cattle.


“There are today upwards of 1,000 head of wild cattle on Graham Island, Mr. Stewart says. As stated, they resemble buffalo. They are as fleet of foot as deer. They run swiftly away when man appears. They have developed long legs, heavy shoulders and lithe bodies.”