The lands and waters that grow and produce our foods locally are under incredible pressure for development. This is not only true for farmland but all of the lands, shorelines and waters that nurture us here in the Capital Region. CRFAIR is committed to finding ways to protect these valuable parts of our regional food system while granting access and stewardship to those with the skills and knowledge required to create food in a sustainable manner. This includes farmers and many other; importantly First Nations communities.
Key points to consider are:
- Due to market pressures, farmland is priced between $100,000-200,000 an acre in the region
- The average age of farmers in the region is 57 (Canada Census 2011) and over half will retire in the next decade
- The largest barrier to new farmers is access to land and capital
- Agriculture is a significant industry in our region ($50 Million in Gross Farm Receipts annually-Canada Census 2011)
- Current policies and planning are not protecting land for farming or ensuring that farming is the primary activity on designated land
- Many long-time stewards on the land, and others who gather and harvest foods, no longer have access to these lands or food sources. In addition they are not able to manage or care for these lands or shorelines. Many are contaminated or lost due to other competing interests.
- We need new strategies to ensure farming and food creation is viable into the future. Looking at options for a Farmland or Foodland Trusts in the region would be one strategy that could support these goals.
- There is need for long term, predictable land access through agreements and leases, the creation of teaching and learning sites, and incubator farm programs
- This is not a new strategy and has been piloted by municipalities like Saanich. The concept is currently being explored by the CRD through the creation of the Regional Food Strategy.
- Would a Farmlands or Foodlands Trust provide a long term model to support food creation activities on public lands like Panama Flats, Glen Meadows, and Sandown Raceway?
- There are a range of partnerships and funding mechanisms at the ready that could be explored to support such efforts
There are a number of public policies in effect to protect farmland and ensure that it is being utilized for agriculture purposes. Provincially, the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), regionally the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB), and municipally through Official Community Plans, various zoning provisions, bylaws and Agriculture Area Plans. These planning tools, while important, are insufficient to protect farmland and ensure it is being used for farming. Non-Governmental Organizations also play an important role, however, they are constantly challenged by funding and capacity issues. We need to work together and we need new, more robust strategies to ensure a viable local food economy into the future.
CRFAIR is actively laying the ground work for partnerships with the District of Saanich, the CRD, Indigenous Band Councils and communities and others to create Farmland and Foodland Trusts that will sustain our region for many years to come. We have the experience and the network to connect public, private sector and community partners to develop a vision for these projects and strategies to move them from planning to reality.
As an early step of this work, CRFAIR created a number of exploratory reports related to Farmland Access and creative solutions to the challenges we face. We are also working with Farm Folk City Folk to look at how this can help build and link to a provincial-wide initiative. Many thanks to the Real Estate Foundation for supporting these ongoing efforts.
To learn more: