LETTER: Creating a successful, sustainable farming community

There are many issues challenging farming in our region.

The Chilliwack – Agassiz – Harrison  area has been a key BC farming community since the early 1860s when the first Europeans settled here.  As one of the most fertile areas of the Fraser Valley the Federal government chose Agassiz to set up the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre here in 1889, one of only five experimental farm research centres in Canada.  As the area grew it remained a key agricultural region and farming has been the life blood of Agassiz for generations.  This is a heritage we can all be proud of but one that is under attack for a variety of reasons.

There are many issues challenging farming in our region.  While the ALR is a great tool for protecting our valuable farm lands it is constantly under attack.  Every application for exclusion that is approved robs us of valuable farm land and the Provincial Government’s recent legislation to loosen ALR rules is only going to make this situation worse.   While encroachment on farm land is a general problem, Farmers are confronted with many other challenges from local issues such as restrictions on land management because of environmental concerns such as the Salish Sucker to international issues such as the decimation of our local Hazel Nut orchards due to a blight that migrated from thousands of miles away.

In addition, it is becoming more and more difficult for small family farms to compete with the larger, national and global farming corporations that are slowly taking over large parts of BC’s agriculture.  You only have to look at our local Circle Farm Tours that seems to have fewer and fewer farms each year or the increasing use of farmland for non-farm operations to know that our area is not the thriving agricultural hub it once was.

Still it is possible to maintain and grow a modern, successful and sustainable farming community.  Against all the same challenges that farmers in BC face the Pemberton area has grown to become a mecca of small-scale farms with exceptional organic produce and natural meats.  How do we here, in the District of Kent, accomplish the same thing and create a strong and sustainable farm community for generations to come?

• First, we need protect the available farm land and that means ensuring that the ALR remains robust and strong.  At the Provincial and Municipal level legislation needs to favour maintaining farm land.

•  Second, we need to take a common sense approach to environmental legislation that encourages sustainable and environmentally friendly practices but does not handcuff farmers or make it uneconomical to farm.

• Third, we need to encourage small-scale farms and organic producers by implementing local programs and legislation that supports farmers.

• Finally, we need to actively market our region as an ideal location for farming, attracting new motivated farmers , and creating a culture that supports the farmers that are already here.

– Freddy Marks,Harrison Hot Springs