Our property nestled in the beautiful Cowichan Valley estuary on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. For the past year we've been developing a new addition to the other activities on the property: a small-scale craft cidery! The cidery is a new operation that is just getting started, and we`ll need help with an exciting variety of jobs all relating to the production of apple cider, starting with the summer berry picking, and then the fall apple harvest. In exchange you will receive deluxe accommodation in what is affectionately called `The Volunteer Hilton`, and a weekly supply of fresh groceries.
The location: The property is 26 acres on a unique location, one side is bordered by the mouth of the Cowichan River, the far end is 16 acres of undisturbed bird sanctuary, and on the other side we are bordered by the Clemclemuts village of the Cowichan Tribes reserve. In the late fall the river hosts several runs of salmon, and wildlife flock to the area - otters, eagles, and countless other species. The farm and guesthouse are on the remaining 10 acres, behind a dyke. The area has some great kayaking, canoeing, and hiking trails. We supply bicycles and local tourism information and encourage our volunteers to spend their days off exploring all the Cowichan Region has to offer, we are well known for our wineries, artists, artisans, small farms and fresh, local food. The property is a short 10 minute drive (or 30 minute bike ride) from the small town of Duncan, and a 1 hour drive (1.5 by bus) north of Victoria.
The guesthouse: The property is frequently rented out for private events, and throughout the summer we host a number of weddings, with happy couples using the property for everything, including the marriage ceremony, gathering, and photo shoots. As these are private events, it`s important to respect the privacy of the guests. We do our best to keep the property looking tidy year round, and maintain a professional atmosphere, especially during rentals.
The agriculture: There are several acres of field (currently fallow), several hundred feet of blueberries, and a number of apple and pear trees planted along the dyke. Recently we acquired a leased portion of another nearby property, which adds several hundred more fruit trees, and are working on restoring these old trees to productivity. From 2011 to 2017 there was active vegetable farming on the property with an emphasis on small plot intensive market gardening. The development of a cidery means a change in the types of things grown and produced on the farm, with more of a focus on fruits for potential addition to beverages. Of course, we also need to plant and grow a lot of apples!
The cidery: Still in the early stages, the first steps of production will be securing a volume of berries, apples, and pears, pressing them into juice, and experimenting with different fermentations and recipes. We`re also looking to start playing with other varieties of ferments, such as apple cider vinegar. The construction of the new facilities was just recently finished, and now the production flow needs to be worked out, including setting up scale able procedures, and the fun part: tasting, testing, and creating the perfect apple cider.
Cooking / shopping
If you're looking to improve your English, this is a great place to do it immersively. Want to improve your cooking? You'll have plenty of opportunities to practice. If you're interested in learning more about small scale farming, sustainable agriculture, or permaculture we're happy to share what we know; the same goes for cidermaking, and fermentation more broadly.
We encourage people to learn about the history of our neighbors, the Cowichan Tribes First Nations and the historic Cowichan Nation, who long predate the arrival of Europeans and their descendants. While this is not a community open to tourists wishing to observe long-standing sacred traditions, we are nonetheless privileged to have a home so near to where these traditions are still practiced, and many nights you will hear the sound of drums from the longhouse across the street.
Overview of the Work:
We ask for 4-5 hours 5 days a week, for a minimum 2 week stay, and an ideal stay being anywhere from 1 to 2 months. The tasks will mostly be physical and outdoors. Volunteers should expect a variety of weather depending on when they are planning on staying. The summer generally ranges from warm to quite hot, but we can still expect some occasional rain; the fall can be very wet, with temperatures beginning to get quite cool at night and in the early mornings. Some form of water resistant (waterproof would be better) footwear and rain gear will make your experience much more enjoyable. We also warn all guests that the mosquitoes can be quite intense at times during the summer. We make an effort to provide a varied experience (and there is a diverse scope of work that can be done), but there are certain jobs that take priority, and this may mean picking fruits for several hours at a time, in an uncomfortable cramped position on a ladder, or it may mean shoveling compost and tree planting in the rain. There are still LOTS of opportunities to learn new skills, get creative, and expand your knowledge in different areas. Some examples of different jobs:
-blueberry picking: we have approximately 200 blueberry plants which are now approaching maturity and can produce a LOT of fruit, they do need to be picked regularly as the fruit ripens. Snacking while you pick is encouraged!
-apple/pear harvest: this includes picking, transporting, washing
-brush clearing/weed whacking: we are in blackberry central, which mean lots of spiky vines that need clearing from around trees
-pruning, training, and reclaiming feral trees
-identifying different varieties of fruit and what's best suited for turning into cider
-maintenance of lawns and hedges around the propery
-DIY carpentry/woodworking projects
These are just some of the things that volunteers may be asked to help with, and the longer your stay, the more variety you'll be likely to see. If you have any special skills or background in a particular field, or even just a special interest in a particular area, then we'll do our best to match the work to best suit you whenever we can. This is a learning experience for everybody, and we value input from anyone who's excited about helping to improve the project.
Our Ideal Candidate:
We are looking for people who enjoy the outdoors, are motivated hard workers who can work independently when needed, and who can cooperate and live with other people from a range of diverse backgrounds. On the job training, education, and instruction can be provided, but a fast learner who can quickly transition to working independently is ideal. Prior experience in this field is not required (though very helpful), we only ask that volunteers are genuinely interested in learning more through experience.
Some preferred qualifications/experience:
-Strong work ethic, positive attitude, adaptable, organized and dependable
-Physically fit and capable of working through adverse weather conditions
-Good communication skills and ability to work with others
-Ability to work efficiently and perform tasks thoroughly and in a reasonable amount of time
-Previous farm related experience, gardening, orcharding, caring for plants, or landscaping
-Previous experience in carpentry, woodworking, construction, or familiarity with tools
-Previous experience brewing, winemaking, fermentation, or in the beverage industry
-Positive outlook, upbeat personality and enthusiastic approach to learning
This position is NOT a good fit for workawayers who:
-are looking for a vibrant nightlife (unless you count crickets)
-dislike hard work
-cannot maintain an air of professionalism while working
-have no idea how to look after a living space and prepare their own food
-are looking for a source of free unlimited booze (yes, there will most likely be the opportunity to help out in tasting and provide feedback, NOT to get hammered)
-have, or are trying to kick an addiction (there are great facilities out there that can help, we are not one of them)
English, some French
Accommodation is shared with 1-2 other people, in the beautiful newly renovated upper floor of the barn, "the loft". There are 4 private bedrooms capable of sleeping up to 6 people. The loft has 1 washroom with shower, fully equipped kitchen, WiFi, TV, a gorgeous view, and a fridge kept stocked with weekly groceries and fresh farm produce.
You are expected to respect the space and the property, keep things clean and tidy, and respect your roommates so the experience can be a positive and enjoyable one for all. You should be able to cook for yourself, or at least interested in learning, as meals will be prepared and shared regularly, and it's a great opportunity to try out dishes you're unfamiliar with, and to practice new recipes.
We want volunteers to be prepared, and get the most out of their time here so they come away with a positive experience. This is a beautiful location for those who enjoy nature, don't mind the weather, and are NOT looking to immerse themselves in a buzzing metropolis. If you're the sort of person who needs constant entertainment provided for you and to be able to go out and party to let off steam, this is probably not the best fit for you. As somebody who has been on the other side of workaway - travelling and looking for hosts - and come away with it being a positive experience, be smart about it; read through the post carefully, and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask, I will do my best to answer honestly and completely. It's always a good idea to have a plan B, no matter how confident you are that it's going to be what you're expecting, sometimes things just aren't a good fit. If you end up at any workaway wanting to do something else, and feel trapped because you don't have any backup it can sour a whole trip, so plan for it just in case.
If you've made it all the way to end, and you're still interested, then great! We'd love to hear from you, just answer the following in your email:
1. Why are you interested in volunteering at this specific project/place?
2. If it's not written in your profile: How old are you, where are you from, what is your work background/field, and why are you using workaway?
3. When are you interested in coming here, and for what length of stay? Would you likely wish to shorten/extend it?
4. Do you have any past experience that you think would be especially relevant to what we're asking for?
5. Do you have any special dietary considerations or sensitivities?
6. What is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week