UPDATE: If you wish to take action to protect farmland, the good people of Cedar Isle Farm offer ideas and contacts.
I first heard of Cedar Isle Farm from Vadim Mugerman at Bad Dog Bread. The baking artisan in North Vancouver is committed to using organic grains grown in British Columbia. Some people are surprised this is even possible.
Vadim installed his own grain milling equipment in 2019 and has produced tons of additive-free organic flour for the fine products his shop produces. Visiting the bakery this week, I saw nothing but grains sourced from BC farms.
I was intrigued by work being done at Cedar Isle Farm and the program of Community Supported Agriculture that supports local small scale farming.
But today, a message from Cedar Isle landed by email, telling about another effort by real estate developers and their allies in municipal government. They aim to destroy yet more prime farmland.
This one is a monster that seems immortal. Locals have thought it dead numerous times in the past 20 years, but it has risen repeatedly.
Some of us have been focused on the loss of prime agricultural land in the Peace River valley and we’ve complained about conversion of lower Fraser River farmlands to estates for people who could easily afford to go elsewhere to build mansions with six-car garages.
Teacup Properties sounds innocuous but it is a project that needs our attention. With the USA slipping toward a totalitarian state, Canada’s ability to produce the food we eat is of growing importance.
Cumulative effect results from a series of repeated actions that have an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. Every parcel of prime farmland lost will never be replaced and our descendants will pay the price.
We need to stand up now and shout:
The following is repeated with permission. Read on and lend a hand, if you can. Tell John Horgan’s government that attacks on self-sufficiency must end.
Jim and I have been involved in another battle lately, one with far more serious consequences than those annoying brassica weeds at Cedar Isle Farm. This battle is over the future of 40 acres of prime agricultural land on the outskirts of Agassiz. If you are interested in land use issues and have a little time, would you mind reading on?
The story starts around twenty years ago when much of the class 1-3 agricultural land in question came up for sale and was purchased by a group of local developers. Their intent, of course, was to build houses on this land but they had one major problem: the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). They knew this when they bought it but they also knew that, if they bided their time, there was a chance that they might get the land excluded from the ALR by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
To cut a long story short, the developers have tried several times but, to date, have been unsuccessful in getting the exclusion they want. Their last attempt was in 2016 with an appeal in October 2018 and, on both occasions, the ALC refused their exclusion application. Now, just eighteen months later, we are debating the issue again. And just recently, despite significant local grass roots opposition, the municipal council voted to approve a revised proposal from the developers and so it is going back to the ALC for consideration once again.
Jim and I feel very strongly that this is not merely a local issue. Grain grown in Agassiz, potatoes grown in Delta or peaches grown in Cawston are not consumed only in those places. They are distributed, of course, throughout the province. So loss of prime agricultural land affects local food availability for us all. It is also ironic that, during a global pandemic when so many people in BC were worried about food supplies and food security, we should even think of paving over prime agricultural land.
Excluding land like this from the ALR also has a knock-on effect on other agricultural land. It sets a precedent for other applications presented to the ALC. Also, when applications like these are successful, the value of adjacent agricultural land increases as it too enters the realm of speculation and development. This means that the land is out of reach of farmers, especially young farmers looking for relatively small amounts of land for, say, intensive vegetable production. The only people who can afford the high land prices are developers and so the cycle, and the loss of prime food producing land, continues.
I should also say that neither Jim nor I are against building homes for people who wish to move to more rural communities. The trouble with the current application is that other options which would expand the number of homes in Agassiz have not been credibly considered. There has been some densification through infill in the townsite but there has been no research directed to sub-dividing lots or building multi-level homes and these options are not on the table. Developing the 40 acres of flat, well-drained farmland will be much easier, cheaper and way more convenient. But also incredibly short-sighted.
The people of Agassiz have fought hard against this development in very difficult times. We first became aware of the new proposal on February 27th, just as covid-19 was emerging. By March 10th we had to be prepared to present arguments at a public meeting. On March 18th a state of provincial emergency was declared which meant getting people to respond to a community survey became much more difficult as we were confined at home. At a council meeting on March 23rd one councillor moved to extend the public consultation process by one month but the motion died because none of the other four councilors thought this consultation was important enough to even second it. By March 26th, the consultation process was closed.
Despite the very tight timeline, the comments at the public meeting were overwhelmingly against the proposal. 55% of people who responded to the survey were against the proposal and the 45% who voted in favour included many who had a financial interest in the application succeeding. Even the District’s own Agricultural Advisory Committee voted against the proposal. And yet, after the municipal council considered all the community feedback, it voted 4 to 1 in favour of approving the exclusion application which will soon be sent to the ALC for their decision.
So, that’s the problem and we are asking for your help. This is no longer a local issue, it is a provincial issue and we are wondering if you can support our efforts. We need people now to write directly to the ALC and lend their voices to ours in support of protecting this agricultural land. If you feel that you would be able to write a letter, could I ask that you let me know me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the contact information you will need.
Please forgive us for reaching out to you through the Cedar Isle Farm mailing list. It was not set up for that intent and this will not, we assure you, become a habit. But if the farm itself could lend an opinion, we think that it would forgive us this once as there is something so very valuable at stake.
Thank you all and we’ll be back to you soon with more news from the farm.
Best wishes from Jim, Yoshi and myself,