Down on the Farm
Contributed by the Traveling Gourmand
More Vancouver Island exploring took me “down on the farm” or more specifically to the Bird’s Eye Cove Farm at Maple Bay in the lovely Cowichan Valley.
In conversation with Lynn Shortt, Business Manager at Bird’s Eye Cove Farm.
Who and what is Bird’s Eye Cove Farm?
Lynn: Bird’s Eye Cove Farm is a 300 acre full working farm in the Cowichan Valley. It is one of the old homestead farms originally settled by the Chisholm family now owned by Heather Scorttz and her family.
What do you do there?
Lynn: Well it’s complicated, I guess a couple years ago now Heather decided she didn’t want the farm to be divided up to a golf course or a subdivision so to do that and keep it sustainable she had to find another way for the farm to support itself. Heather thought she would build a building to hold events, weddings, parties, something like that. She commissioned the barn being built as a 3600 square foot event facility on the farm itself, it’s timber frame. I manage the barn and the events in the barn and I also have some hand in the overall in the marketing and the branding for the entire Bird’s Eye Cove Farm label. I do a bit of everything.
When did the Farm go into the wedding and event business?
Lynn: A family member had a wedding in the old barn and people started asking if they could have their wedding at the Farm because they were looking for someplace different, someplace with character and they thought the Farm was beautiful. That’s probably where the whole idea started. We started hosting in our new facility just this summer. Our first wedding was early July.
Do you provide full service catering and liquor service?
Lynn: We are not a licensed facility just yet. We can cater, we have our own commercial kitchen and we work with a number of caterers on the Island here. If a couple come to us with a caterer in mind we work with the chef to help coordinate the day. If someone says I really don’t know what I want to do or perhaps they want a pig roast and ask can we do that. We can do that sort of thing as well.
You can provide a full wedding package including florist, photographer and other services?
Lynn: Absolutely we work closely with caterers, florist and some wonderful professional photographers.
Do you have facilities for the wedding ceremony as well as the reception?
Lynn: We have a number of beautiful spots in and around the barn. We have a pond we are reclaiming and doing some work on. We are right on Bird’s Eye Cove so we are on the ocean. Lots of wonderful places outside as well as inside the Barn.
What size weddings can you accommodate?
Lynn: We can accommodate about 140 people for a sit down, plated dinner in our gathering hall that’s our main hall. The structure is a timber frame and we can use round tables for 125 and a head table of up to 15. Our kitchen accommodates plated as well as buffet dining which is not something easy to find in other facilities. Standing cocktail events a couple of hundred people easily using indoors and outdoors. Our top numbers for a wedding would be 150 anymore than that it isn’t an intimate venue anymore.
If someone is interested in Bird’s Eye Cove Farm as a wedding venue how far in advance
should they expect to be booking?
Lynn: We are booking weddings for next year, and in fact we are almost full for next summer, July and August. I have maybe two dates left in that prime range. The shoulder seasons May and September are still looking good but they need to call us or email us and set up a time to say hello and we can get together, sit down and understand what it is they are looking for their special day and to work with them, maybe make some suggestions. Mainly to come by and see our facility we have 300 acres, not in a town or city so a very different location for a lot of people. We’re just up the hill from Maple Bay Marina with service by Harbour Air and it also has capacity for guests arriving by boat. We are very convenient for people coming in by different modes of transportation.
Are you open all year round?
Lynn: Yes we are. We are heated and we’re chilled. We are a four seasons full event facility, handicapped accessible including washrooms, and kitchen. We have a guest suite within the main facility with a loft sleeping area. We also have a timber frame self contained cabin available for guests. There is a lot that the facility and property have to offer.
How many people does the Farm employ?
Lynn: We have a staff of four year round. Heather Scorttz, the owner, her daughter Sara, myself and Ashley Lee the chef and kitchen manager. We have a farm gate store,
We raise chickens and cattle. For events we have qualified, trained bartenders and servers. We train all the staff ourselves so guests know the service will be top notch. This weekend we will have five staff on and next weekend probably ten. When we host an event we run with whatever number may be required. We are doing an event for the Cowichan Wine and Food Festival on Thursday, September 13, a tasting evening featuring Cowichan Valley wineries. For that event we will probably put on 12 people. The main thing they are all trained, top end servers.
What does it cost to rent the facility?
Lynn: We have a number of different packages ranging from $1,000. and we go up for a full weekend with a starting point of about $7,500. That’s a really broad number. We customize our packages for guests so depending on what they want, they might want a night for a cocktail reception for 25 guests which is a lot different from having three days of set-up, say 140 guests, variety of music. There is such a broad range of what you can
do with a wedding.
What do you see in your future at Bird’s Eye Cove Farm?
Lynn: We will continue to be farmers because we are all farmers at heart so we will continue to develop our farm. As far as events in our facility go we want weddings but also other events. Working with area chefs perhaps offering classes. We would like to enhance our accommodation facilities. We are really starved in the Cowichan Valley for nice accommodation and think people might really like to come and stay with us at the Farm if we provided them with more cabins like our little timber frame cabin. We grow things here and you might see us growing and expanding with animals like pigs and raising chickens, down the road turkeys to supply our kitchen. To build a business for the farm that allows us to be sustainable and keep the farm from being divided. A little agri-business.
Although booked for weekend weddings for most of the summer season 2013 and starting to be almost fully booked for 2014 there are still off season space available for brides with a different timeline.
The Farm is also available for corporate events. Team building, seminars and conferences, the farm allows privacy and exclusivity for your group.
Getting there: Easy access by Harbour Air – Vancouver harbour to Maple Bay in 15 minutes or by ferry from Horsehoe Bay to Departure Bay, Nanaimo and Tswwassen to Duke Point, Nanaimo or Swartz Bay, Victoria.
Where to stay:
Funky Frog B&B www.funkyfrogbb.com
Maple Bay Marina float home rentals (250) 746-8482
For more information, please visit: http://www.birdseyecovefarm.com
Photo: Element Photography