Serving as a popular attraction tucked away in Glen Valley of Langley, B.C., you may have come across this family-owned farm. Its location is a significant factor to the way business is run at Aldor Acres. One of the most special things about it are the faces behind the name: the Andersons.
Aldor Acres has flourished into an educational farm, inspired by the family’s long roots in agriculture and farming. As Aldor Acres’ founders Dorothy and Albert Anderson reminisced a time 25 years ago when most visitors came from farming backgrounds, they highlight that this isn’t the case today.
The pair, along with their granddaughter and partner in the business Melissa, now strive to share farm life with big-city people in an educational way.
“We want people to know that our animals are well taken care of. We take care of the land that we live on and share it with others who visit because they don’t have the same opportunity to experience farm life.” – Dorothy Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres Farm
Educational farming: why it matters
The Anderson family’s desire to share their knowledge with a demographic that’s unfamiliar with farm life, stems from a declining number of people involved in the field today.
According to The World Bank’s International Labour Organization modeled estimate on Canadian employment in agriculture, 1.5% of the population is involved in the industry as of 2019.
This number is down from 3.5% of the population in 1991, shortly after the Aldor Acres family farming business took off.
To fulfill their educational farming mission, the Andersons are putting the modern in modern farm family by using social media as a tool to further educate the public.
On their Facebook platform, social media users can learn about livestock and agriculture through visual storytelling, like this step-by-step look at how the annual pumpkin patch is planted.
Back on the farm, one way the Andersons pass on their knowledge is by educating younger generations.
“A lot of teachers who bring classes here influence our grandkids and younger people who have no idea where food comes from, so we’re trying to help answer the questions people ask.” – Albert Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres
Albert’s favourite way of answering those questions is through a hands-on approach where young visitors can get a true feel for farm life. This means learning about agriculture and the hard work that goes into farming while trying their hand at chore time, exploring the vegetable garden, and meeting the many animals Aldor Acres is home to.
Say hello to Rob
One of the animals visitors can meet at the farm is a Vancouver native with a special tale.
“This is Rob: he’s a seven-year-old Percheron. Rob used to pull carriages in Stanley Park, but he retired at an early age. He actually has a heart condition so his owner didn’t want him pulling carriages anymore. Now Rob lives here with us and his best friend is a mini pony.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres Farmer
And on your way to the barn, you may spot a sea of orange.
The farm falls under the South Coast region in British Columbia and is described to have a cooler, wetter climate with fertile soils. Beyond pumpkins, these conditions allow for a broad range of crops at Aldor Acres including sunflowers, sweet corn, squash, and broccoli.
A multifaceted farm
School trips and a barn full of animals aren’t the only things Aldor Acres has to offer, as the family farm takes a multifaceted approach to keeping business booming.
The farming trio’s busiest time of the year is from mid September to early November when the pumpkin patch is in full bloom. As it grew to become Aldor Acres’ main attraction, the family found their calling. Melissa explained that finding a niche market is the key for small farms like this one to thrive.
“There are many rules and obstacles arising which are stopping small farms. It’s making it harder for them to grow, make money, and be sustainable. You either need to have a niche market like we do here with the pumpkin patch and school tours, or you’ve got to go really big.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres Farmer
By discovering its niche, this small family farming business found its might.
The true spirit of farm life
While there isn’t a cap on the number of things this dynamic farming trio wants to share with their visitors, Melissa explained that enjoying the beauty of life is at the core of it all.
“Stop and smell the roses; it’s important for people to slow down and enjoy what’s around. I know you have to drive to your job and go here and go there, but maybe you don’t need to rush. If it’s a nice sunny day, look out at the trees or the mountains, and take a second to realize that we’re very lucky with where we live. It’s a beautiful area and we have a really nice life here.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres Farmer
What started as a simple idea sprouted into the beginning of the Anderson legacy. The two original faces behind the Aldor Acres family farm joke that the history is within their names; Aldor.
The Anderson’s, Albert and Dorothy (Al-dor), said they met 60 years ago at a 4-H camp. Both growing up on small family farms around the Fraser Valley, the pair were immune to the ways of a farm. In 1969, the Andersons used the name Aldor to establish a veterinarian clinic, eventually purchasing a farm in 1971 to chase a hobby that they loved.
Albert, a veterinarian, said he juggled both a clinic and a farm simultaneously. A farm full of sheep, cattle, hogs, and sweet corn never filled their bank accounts, but kept them busy pursuing a passion which they loved.
Where it all started
In 1988, Albert and Dorothy got the idea of selling pumpkins by using the honour system. The pair explained they spent two years selling their pumpkins wholesale. Not long after that, a school teacher came to the veterinary clinic and suggested she take her class by the farm for a field trip. From there, the farm skyrocketed into the successful family business it is today.
At the core of Glen Valley, Aldor Acres remains open year round. Offering spring and summer farm tours, endless rows of beautiful golden sunflowers, 20 acres of pumpkin patches and petting zoos in the fall, and crisp green Christmas trees in the winter, the Andersons have run a business that has seen generations come through.
On their 32nd year of business, they don’t plan on giving up anytime soon.
The new generation
Throughout the years, Albert and Dorothy had their four children and 19 grandchildren help them with farm labour.
The oldest Anderson granddaughter Melissa now works full-time on the farm, with plans to one day take over her grandparents’ legacy. Dorothy said it was never expected that Melissa would return from University to take over the family farm.
Eight-years have since gone by and the three of them run the farm together year round.
Get to know the founders of Aldor Acres: Albert and Dorothy Anderson.
Meet the pair who started it all 32 years ago. As their granddaughter Melissa once put it: they’re the heart and soul of Aldor Acres.
To this day, Albert and Dorothy work together to keep the family farming tradition alive. While Albert takes care of the land, Dorothy keeps all of the behind the scenes business in check.
It seems like no surprise that the couple found their fate reminiscent of their childhood, having both grown up on farms. Despite what seems like a picture-perfect destiny, young Dorothy had her mind set on anything but.
“I thought I was never going to marry a farmer.”
After Dorothy’s father passed away when she was in the sixth grade, she worked on her family farm every day alongside her brother. Working 24/7 made Dorothy dream of a future far from the reality she’s living today.
“I worked every day till I had marks on my legs from my gumboots. I thought this is not what I’m going to do. I want to go to the city.” – Dorothy Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres
As many people come to learn, life doesn’t always go as planned. Somewhere in between working her gumboots off and dreaming about life in the city, Albert walked into Dorothy’s life.
While it wasn’t a part of young Dorothy’s original plan, marrying Albert led her to a life she enjoys with all of her heart today.
One of her favourite things about Aldor Acres is the happy moments she gets to share with her loved ones and the community.
“Some of my favourite memories on the farm are having lots of get togethers and seeing happy people. Whether it’s for a private event of our own like a birthday party for a family member or the public coming out for birthday parties or just to experience what the farm offers; everybody’s happy.” – Dorothy Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres Farm
Beyond the get togethers, Dorothy balances work with play by being the brains behind the Aldor Acres operation. She handles all of the behind the scenes business that keeps the farm running.
Dorothy spends her days answering phone calls and emails, balancing money, and taking care of just about anything else that needs to be kept in order.
While Dorothy takes charge inside the farmhouse, Albert is the outside man.
“The day starts with doing chores in the morning.”
As the outside man, Albert’s day starts at the brink of dawn. Doing the morning chores means feeding the animals and cleaning up anything that’s necessary, but the hard work doesn’t stop there.
“After doing the chores, I’ll maybe go to a local cafe and have a cup of coffee at six o’clock in the morning. Then I come home, have breakfast, and get on with whatever’s planned for the day. That could be working in the field, fencing, fixing plumbing, or looking after machinery. Then at five o’clock in the afternoon, it’s time to feed the animals again and eventually go in and have supper.” – Albert Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres Farm
But just like Dorothy, Albert knows how to balance work with play too.
“My favourite memories are the satisfaction of family moments.”
Albert echoed Dorothy’s love for the way family and community members all come together to share joyous moments on the farm. Some of his favourite memories include watching others create happy memories of their own.
“It’s great seeing someone my age sitting by the fire without a care in the world, knowing his grandkids are somewhere within earshot having a good time, and he can sit there for an hour or two. There’s one grandfather in particular who comes every Easter. When the kids are ready to go home, he gets up and leaves after he’s had a great day.” – Albert Anderson, Co-founder of Aldor Acres Farm
At Aldor Acres family farm, it’s true that “good things come in pairs.”
Whether Albert and Dorothy are having a great time with family and friends, keeping hard at work, or sharing a lifetime of knowledge with the many visitors at their farm, they definitely make a great team.
“I’ve always been against the grain in a sense.”
Meet Melissa Anderson: the granddaughter of Aldor Acres’ founders. One of the most special things about her story? Melissa’s not your typical farmer.
“When you think of a traditional farmer, it’s usually a male taking over after their parents. Then they have a wife and children. I’ve always been against the grain in a sense.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres farmer
According to Statistics Canada data from a 2016 Census of Agriculture combined with a 2016 Census of Population, the picture Anderson painted rings true. The data demonstrated that males accounted for 72% of young farm operators in Canada, while women made up 27.3%.
On a larger scale, The World Bank’s International Labour Organization modeled estimate on female employment in Canadian agriculture illustrates that women made up 0.9% of the population working in the industry as of 2019.
Despite this being a male-dominated industry, Statistics Canada stated that the number of women operating farms has increased over the last century.
Its data showed that in 1996, females of all ages only accounted for 25.3% of farm operators in the country. By 2016, that number had risen to 28.7%, making Melissa one of the 77,830 females operating farms in Canada as of 2016.
So how did Melissa become a part of the rising demographic of females breaking gender stereotypes in the industry?
The answer may surprise you.
“I wouldn’t say I was necessarily your typical farm kid.”
Melissa didn’t always know she wanted to become a farmer; in fact, she pursued an entirely different path in life before making her way back to Aldor Acres.
“I played hockey my whole life growing up. I would eat, sleep, and breathe hockey for the first 20 years of my life. Then one day, I was out traveling in Australia when I had one of those moments sitting on the beach and thought to myself: I want to come home and become a farmer.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres farmer
So where is Melissa now?
“It was a bit of a change going from playing hockey to being a farmer.”
It’s been eight years since Melissa decided to swap the ice rink for her family farm. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time farmer, Melissa shared the news with her grandparents, Albert and Dorothy Anderson, and flew back home to embrace her family’s roots.
Although it was a change, coming back home to work on the farm proved to be one of the best decisions she ever made. As Melissa happily put it, farming allows her to live a lifestyle like no other.
“Farming is very freeing; you feel alive every day. That’s something I always want to feel when I live. I want to feel like I’m purposeful in my life and enjoy every moment, whether it be cleaning pig stalls or playing with my dogs. I just always try to enjoy the moments, and that’s a beautiful thing about farming; it allows you to be your own boss and enjoy those moments.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres farmer
To Melissa, enjoying those moments means finding solitude in the time she spends with the many furry friends at Aldor Acres.
“It’s peaceful for me; you just wind down and forget whatever else is on in your mind or happened during your day. You relax when it’s just you and the animals. You clean, feed, and water them. Then you talk to them; you obviously have relationships with one or two in the barn, or maybe six. I guess that’s what I like about hanging out with the animals.”
It’s this kind of fulfillment Melissa gets from being a farmer, which she plans to make last a lifetime.
“I would love to continue the family legacy moving forward.”
It’s been 32 years since the Aldor Acres legacy began, and Melissa can’t wait to keep the tradition going for many more years to come. Despite the Andersons skipping a generation as Melissa hopped aboard the family business, their dream for Aldor Acres is one and the same.
“Even though we’re three generations apart and have different ways of working, we have a similar direction and path we’d like to see the farm go in the future. It’s created a lot of memories for families and kids out there, so I don’t want to stop that. It’s really cool when you have somebody my age come in with their kids, and they used to come to the pumpkin patch on their school trips 25 years ago. I think it’s really neat to be able to continue that tradition.
Beyond Melissa’s love for her grandparents, the farm, and her furry fiends in the barn, continuing the family legacy stems from her belief in never letting gender stereotypes stop you from chasing your dreams.
“I don’t think your sex should change or determine what you do in life. Everybody has their different ways of living and their own passions, right? So, I encourage anybody to follow their passions regardless of their gender or their ability; just follow what you love and enjoy your moments.” – Melissa Anderson, Aldor Acres farmer
Tune in below for the full video documentary
Modern Farm Family tells the tale of how the granddaughter of Aldor Acres’ founders defied gender stereotypes by becoming a farmer. Melissa Anderson takes us on her life’s journey from choosing to leave 20 years of hockey behind, to continuing the family legacy. Tune in to meet the farms’ founders who started it all and a hay-wagon full of furry friends along the way.
Thanks for watching!
If there’s one thing Marwa Elgabry has always been passionate about, it’s storytelling. Her love for sharing meaningful stories took her on a journey through Vancouver’s broadcast industry beginning in 2015. Marwa first explored the field through her work in television. After working as on-air host for Tri-Cities community TV and Novus TV, she went on to pursue BCIT’s Broadcast and Online Journalism program. Now in her final term, Marwa aspires to take the multimedia skills she’s adopted and apply them in a career that allows her to share impactful stories for a lifetime.
Kristy is a second year journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, graduating in May. Prior to beginning BCIT, she attended the University of the Fraser Valley where she graduated with an Associates Degree in Media and Communications. After graduation she would love to pursue a career within public relations. In her free time she loves to travel, eat, and explore the outdoors.
Michelle De Leon
Michelle’s journey to pursue journalism began as an aspiration to follow in her father’s footsteps with his love of news writing. Since the apple does not fall far from the tree, Michelle finally took the plunge to take the Broadcasting and Online Journalism program in BCIT. During her time at school, she earned the CBC Alexis Mazurin Award for her Radio Documentary. Now in her last term, Michelle hopes to take the skills she has learned in her program and enamour of infographics to a career in Digital Marketing.