Historic Harewood Estates: The Breadbasket of Nanaimo

August 10th, 2017

Nestled at the base of Mount Benson and full of lush wetlands, open fields and gently flowing streams, Harewood is one of Nanaimo’s most naturally beautiful neighbourhoods. But it’s also one of the oldest. In fact, Harewood was the first planned agricultural community in British Columbia, dating all the way back to 1884.

Originally purchased by Samuel Robins, the Superintendent of the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, the large piece of land was divided into 5-acre parcels. Each of the prime farming plots were made available for miners at affordable prices, as a way for the families to provide for themselves whenever the coal market experienced a downturn. Some of Nanaimo’s first pioneers farmed the rich soils found at the “Five Acre” farms, helping this area earn the reputation as the breadbasket of Nanaimo.

Today, only a handful of these historic Harewood plots remain intact. For the last three years, two local non-profit organizations, Growing Opportunities and Nanaimo Foodshare have been working together to preserve the integrity of one such property: 933 Park Avenue. They have been using the property to demonstrate organic growing techniques, as well as an education centre, therapeutic space and source of local food. Recently, Vancouver Island University and the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute have also joined the project by researching the historical, ecological, agricultural and community values of the property with the hopes of preserving the land as a demonstration farm and open space for future generations to enjoy.

For more information on this project, including how you can get involved, contact Growing Opportunities at or (250) 713-3374.

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