Lettuce and peas are growing well, as France Bournazel shows. Russell Farm Market, way off in the distance, should be opening again by mid-July. The Garden Centre, however, is back in business. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crops ready, but flood-recovering Chemainus farm market still a month away from reopening

Russell Farm Market Garden Centre doing a blazing business with everyone taking up gardening

Four months after Chemainus River flood waters submerged the Westholme area during a 24-hour period of heavy rain Feb.1, Russell Farm Market & Garden Centre owner France Bournazel is just getting her head above water.

Insurance matters have all been finalized and On Side Restoration’s work inside the market is progressing toward reopening around mid-July.

“Today’s the first day they’re working on that market site,” said Bournazel June 4. “That’s how long it took.”

RELATED: Rebuild for flooded Vancouver Island farm market well underway

The Garden Centre at least got back into operation sooner rather than later for three days a week at first and then expanding to five days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, around the first of May.

“I had enough people to do five days a week,” said Bournazel. “It’s the people who want to work in the front line. They came to me and said, ‘OK, France, this is what we’re going to do for you.’”

There wasn’t quite enough personnel to stretch it to seven days a week at this point and the last thing Bournazel wanted was to offer less than top-notch service on those days.

“They’re very qualified,” she said of her staff. Many are also working in unfamiliar positions for now. If they haven’t got an immediate answer for you, they’ll find it.

It’s been extremely busy at the Garden Centre since it reopened.

“The Garden Centre is doing amazing,” Bournazel indicated. “I got so much support. I never sold so much tomato plants in March. Everybody wants to grow a garden.”

The problem for Bournazel now is getting her ripening crops to the public, with the market still closed.

“My farm is ready and my market is not ready,” she noted. “I’ve got so much stuff coming out.”

RELATED: Shortage of foreign workers costs Vancouver Island berry farmer thousands

Opening a small stall with some potatoes and lettuce is helping, but sales there are slow. “I need to have the big market open,” Bournazel stressed.

In order to alleviate the crop overload, she’s made plans to sell at the Duncan Farmers Market on Saturdays and in Cedar Sundays.

“I don’t have a choice,” Bournazel admitted. “I grow for my market. We’re trying to see how it’s going to work.”

All going well, things will be back as close to normal as possible in a month with an abundance of seasonal vegetables and fruit available in the market.

In the back of her mind, Bournazel is continually thinking about the nearby Chemainus River and the prospects of further flooding becoming a constant seasonal threat.

“I can’t afford to have another year like that,” she conceded.

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Russell Farm Market & Garden Centre’s France Bournazel has rhubarb growing in abundance. (Photo by Don Bodger)

France Bournazel works on keeping the grass trimmed at the farm. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Garden Centre has at least been up and operating again for a while at Russell Farm Market & Garden Centre. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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