Richard Leblanc, executive director of Woodwynn Farms in Brentwood Bay, stands in front of the East Barn. Restorations of the heritage-designated building are set to begin in June or July. (Alisa Howlett/News staff)

Woodwynn Farms barn undergoing historic renovations thanks to $100,000 Canada 150 grant

A heritage-designated barn in Brentwood Bay is getting a much-needed face lift to honour Canada’s Confederation thanks to funding provided by the provincial government.

Administered by the BC Museums Association and supported by Heritage BC with funding from the Government of British Columbia, the B.C. Canada 150 program was launched to mark the country’s 150th anniversary by recognizing communities across the province and their contributions to the nation. The intent is that projects funded through the project will create meaningful legacies that honour the province’s unique and diverse histories, culture and heritage.

Woodwynn Farms – the 193-acre, therapeutic community farm for the homeless – received a $100,000 grant, the largest sum of possible program funding, to restore what it calls its East Barn. The barn dates back to to the mid-1800s.

“After a few decades of neglect, the old barn is showing age. We have a number of areas where there’s some key dry rot damage to some supporting beams and boards are falling a part and there’s a leaky roof, which is obviously a major source of the issues as well. And it will need a new paint job,” said Richard Leblanc, executive director of Woodwynn. “The bottom line is when we’re done we’ve probably breathed at least another 25 to 50 years of good, useful life into that old barn.”

At the farm Leblanc offers a comprehensive, 24 hours a day, seven days a week treatment program for those struggling with mental health and addictions. Currently there are eight individuals a part of the project. These individuals, who live in RVs on the property, do everything from gardening and farm work, to running the year-round farm market, to looking after animals. Leblanc said he is working closely with the community to gradually increase the number of participants over the next three years, ultimately ramping up to 40 to meet the demand.

In its current state, the dilapidated barn is home to farm equipment; but in its future, restorative state Leblanc plans to put the barn to more practical use and house livestock and hay.

“Our livestock is a dimension of the day-to-day vitality of our farm and our farm community. Livestock means feeding ourselves, livestock means feeding the folks who will come in and shop at our market – so this is just another dimension of deepening our relationship with the local community.”

Dating back to 2008, and still ongoing, Leblanc has had issues with the District of Central Saanich. At one point in 2014 the district went to court in an effort to shut down operations at the farm. Leblanc said he hopes this new restoration project will strengthen his relationship with the district.

“Restoring this iconic barn is another show of and another opportunity to deepen our relationship with the local community and with local district authorities. It’s a nostalgic piece of Central Saanich and of the Peninsula and of Greater Victoria and I think people take pride in being a part of this community and that’s our way of giving back is applying for and being successful in this grant.”

The company taking on the historic restoration is Macdonald and Lawrence Timber and Framing from Cobble Hill. Leblanc said the company has an impressive history of restoring old structures and he is honoured to have Gordon, the contractor, do the work.

The project is set to begin in June or July of this year and Leblanc hopes the work will be finished by early fall.