Incorporated on November 3rd 1914, the Shawnigan Cobble Hill Farmer Institute gave settlers new to the area a place to congregate, to share information and to seek needed help from those already established in our newly forming and thriving farming community.
As Cobble Hill and the surrounding communities did not have any form of local governance until the late 1960s, the Farmers Institute along with other local organizations joined together to act on behalf of its citizens.
As such, the Farmers Institute provided a social outlet for pioneers in addition to supplying agricultural needs like advice, seeds, fertilizer and blasting powder.
It also acted with individuals, businesses and other groups to build amenities like the Cenotaph, which can be seen at the corner of Fisher Road and Heigh Street, as well as ensure schools and churches were built in the area.
Today, the Farmers Institute acts as a community hub. The Cobble Hill Hall is the only historic community hall remaining from those early years. The community hall in Shawnigan Lake was replaced by a modern recreation facility run by the Cowichan Valley Regional District and in Mill Bay, the Mill Bay Community League Hall is also more current and sits on the same site as the Kerry Park Recreation Centre.
The facilities and grounds owned and operated by the Farmers Institute are managed and maintained entirely by volunteers. Governance is provided by a 12-person board of directors who are elected annually by the general membership.
We are very fortunate to live in a community where volunteerism plays such a huge role in who we are. This helps to define us as well as accentuate the value of living in a rural agricultural area where the lifestyle we all enjoy remains.
Board of Directors
- Roger Painter - President
- Gerry Giles - Secretary
- George Robbins - Past President
- Roy Davies - Vice President
- Robin Brett - Treasurer
- Brenda Burch
- Russell Dann
- Gord Dickenson
- Blair Herbert
- Nellie Poelman
- Lynne Pohynayko
- Jayne Shaw
- Bill Wikkerink
We’re all so looking forward to the Cobble Hill Fair this year. It will be wonderful to get out and meet our friends and neighbors again at the Fair. The Corona virus may never be fully gone from our lives, but we are now at the point where we can look forward to some sort of normalcy after a long tough two and a half years.
This will be our 113th version of the Fair and we are excited to be able to bring it back in its traditional form. Our Fair committee is working hard to prepare for the August event. We hope you will come out and join us at our time-honoured gathering, as it is once again time for us all to come together in a sense of community.
This has truly been an inspiring year for the members of our Institute. Since Covid we’ve been challenged to raise the financial resources we need to operate and just to keep the hall functioning even if the doors are not open. Previous methods were seriously curtailed during Covid due to government health regulations and safety concerns. Rentals and community events, like the Fair and Seedy Saturday were either not allowed or seriously restricted. However, we did find other ways to keep the organization viable. The thing we will all remember is the word “Pies”. This fundraiser became a huge success and not only kept us afloat during the pandemic but drew out many volunteers and people in the community who not only made the pies but also continued to support this popular product. The profits also allowed us to continue to help others in our community like the Seniors meals program, the Food Bank and others. Fortunately, with curtailment of pandemic restrictions we’re now seeing rentals increasing for our facilities along with our other business activities. It’s a pleasure to see the Halls filling up with groups again.
I’d like to take this is opportunity to thank all the volunteers and helpers who continued to contribute and support the Farmers Institute over the past year. Our organization is run totally by volunteers. We do not have any staff and it provides a perfect example of how communities are built and continue to grow. We rely totally on volunteers who come out and help support the numerous events, groups and activities that use our facilities. We are blessed by having so many people in South Cowichan that give of themselves to help others.
We hope our celebration in August will once again bring people out and allow us to enjoy the best of our community, our fellow neighbors and the pride they take in their Food, Art, Crafts Produce and Agriculture.
See you at the Fair.
~ Roger Painter, President