Coquitlam’s Agricutlural Heritage

 In Market News

While there is very little farmland within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in Coquitlam, the city has a rich farming history. According to the Agricultural Land Use Inventory conducted in 2010/2011 Coquitlam has 792 hectares of land inside the ALR. Most of this land (476 ha.) is in a natural or semi-natural state and just 261 ha. are currently farmed. Berry production accounts for 222 hectares with most of the remaining land in forage crops. Another 764 hectare were surveyed outside the ALR. The survey indicated that there is 182 ha. within the ALR and another 32 ha, outside the ALR with potential for farming.[1]

Two of the largest farms in Coquitlam’s history are now part of the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s park system; Colony Farm and Minnekhada. In the early 1900’s both of these farms were recognized for the quality of their operations and for innovation. While there is some limited farming and a vibrant 2.8 hectare community garden space at Colony Farm, Minnekhada Farm has been inaccessible to the public and is need of extensive investment. Most of Coquitlam’s current farming capacity is south of Minnekhada Park and is bounded by Pitt River to the east, Cedar Road to the west, and Port Coquitlam to the south.

Colony Farm was established in the early 1900’s to supply food for the Provincial Hospital for the Insane in New Westminster. The province purchased 1,000 acres (405 ha.) and using mostly labour supplied by their patients, the land was cleared and diked.[2]  Overcrowding at the hospital necessitated the building of Essondale, what is now known as Riverview. Dubbed The Hospital for the Mind, it opened in 1913 on the slopes beside what is now Lougheed Hwy. Colony Farm became a therapeutic operation. “The new Colony Farm is to be the scene of the biggest adventure in mental therapeutics that has been heard since the days of the Apostles.”[3]Main Barn Colony Farm3 Sets of Plow Teams

The farm became one the most productive in the region. They had the largest Holstein herd in B.C. and grew grains, pumpkins, turnips, celery, onions beets, lettuce and corn. They also had an on-site processing facility where they canned peas, beans, apricots and peaches. “By the 1920’s Colony Farm was recognized as one of the finest farming operations in Western Canada.”[4] A series of fires in the mid-1940’s destroyed several of the buildings. In 1965 the Riverside building at the farm became a maximum security facility and the farm closed in 1983. In 1995 it became a regional park and a controversial Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was built on the site and opened in 1997.

Minnekhada Farm was privately held and its owners included a couple of Lieutenant Governors. In its early years it was noted for its technical innovation and in 1912, was one of the first to use a Caterpillar tractor. The farm was purchased that year by Minnesota lumberman Harry Leroy Jenkins. Jenkins acquired additional land, increasing its size to 1,600 acres (647 ha.), and formed The Minnekhada Dairy and Stock Farm Company. “This name ‘Minnekhada’ is derived from the Sioux Indian language and means ‘rattling water’ (‘Mini’ means ‘water’ and ‘kahda’ signifies ‘to rattle’).”[5] Like Colony Farm, a wide variety of crops were grown and a large assortment of livestock were raised.

During the time that Eric Hamber owned the farm it was converted to equestrian use for his race horses and a polo club relocated there.[6] Minnekhada lodge, one the current park’s buildings that is available to the public, was constructed in 1934 and became a place for entertaining dignitaries. It has been restored to its former beauty and is available for bookings through Metro Vancouver Parks.

At the present time Minnekhada Farm site is closed to the public and there are three residences that are currently rented. Metro Vancouver Parks also has a barn that has been converted to a work shop for staff use. The Farm encompasses 46 hectares (115 acres) of the 211 hectare (642 acre) park site, but there are no plans to reintroduce agriculture there.

If you’d like to learn more about Minnekhada Farm you can read the full report here. If you are interested in farming history in our region, you should visit the B.C. Farm Museum in Fort Langley. This volunteer operated museum is open through Thanksgiving weekend before closing for the winter.

[1] http://www.al.gov.bc.ca/resmgmt/sf/gis/lui_reports/MetroVanRegional2010_11_ALUIReport.pdf

[2] http://www.bcmhsus.ca/history

[3] BC Mental Health and Addiction Services (2009), Riverview Hospital: A legacy of cure and compassion

[4] BC Mental Health and Addiction Services (2009), Riverview Hospital: A legacy of cure and compassion

[5] http://www.minnekhada.ca/documents/Minnekhada%20history.pdf 

[6] http://www.minnekhada.ca/documents/Minnekhada%20history.pdf

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