Environment

More destruction of prime farmland

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.


Dear friends,

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 diane@cedarislefarm.ca 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,

Diane


Part of the land developers seek to remove from the agricultural land reserve

Categories: Environment

19 replies »

  1. Norm, it’s so hard to be civil.
    Yes, of course I’ll reply to Cedar Isle Farm’s request to sent an intervention letter.
    But it will be hard to be civil in that letter as well.
    Perhaps if I just send bit of my grinding teeth, my intention would be clearer?
    – Graeme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AS older people flee the incompetence, corruption and tax and spend politicians in Metro Vancouver (GVRD), new housing is needed. Thus the same grimy games that are pushing for condo towers along side SkyTrain Lines are thus pushing to convert farmland into housing.

    Casino money laundering has been driving the condo market and fueling the huge cost of housing in metro Vancouver, it is the very same laundered money that is driving the destruction of farmland.

    Post Covid 19 the increasing numbers of people departing Metro Vancouver for less corrupt venues will be surprised that foul odor of corruption has followed them up the valley.

    The failure of the NDP to curb municipal corruption and force fiscal responsibility on elected politicians is just one of the many millstones around Horgan’s neck. His goodwill with Covid-19 will wane very quickly,.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t see any facts. Looks like an uninformed rant. If you want to make points and point fingers support your argument with facts and details. Otherwise your only a good headline.
    The real problem is the farmland was designated 45 years ago. There is land in the land reserve that could not be farmed and land being developed that should be in the reserve.

    Like

  4. We have lost so much land in the ALR. This is the time for Canada to be thinking about its independence as a provider of food not shrinking. However, we also need to be thinking that we can make it worthwhile for farmers to do their work. A universal income would be helpful here.

    Like

  5. 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:

    I do not want to see any more of our farmland being exploited, by rich foreign investors! We need to keep farming alive! We need to support our farmers who produce food for BC and Canada!

    Like

  6. It is of prime importance that every inch of ALR land be preserved for FOOD production. Farms that feed the populous, not overpriced little boxes for real estate profits or for that matter growing of none food production, eg marijuana.
    This pandemic should have brought it starkly to people, that relying on food from across the border or across the ocean is foolhardy to say the least. STOP BURYING OUR FARMLAND UNDER CONCRETE!!

    Like

  7. No more! This encroachment onto farmland needs to stop. We are going to deeply regret not preserving every square foot of farmland when climate change becomes worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very hard to believe the ALC would approve this exclusion; the Chair Jennifer Dyson is very much against releasing good Ag land. So is the Minister Lana Popham.
    Ridiculous for those developers to think destroying this beautiful productive farmland in an active farming community is a good thing – in any fashion.

    Like

    • David Anderson is one politician I never figured out. Early on, he seemed capable and highly qualified but I cannot think of any lasting achievements.

      Like

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