Tag Archives: farm land

Saanich triples ALR dedication at Panama Flats

Saanich wants part of Panama Flats in agriculture reserve

Jeff Bell, Times Colonist

Panama Flats

In a rare step, Saanich council is trying to put land into the Agricultural Land Reserve instead of the usual practice of trying to take it out.

Just maintaining the existing amount of agriculturally designated land in B.C. is a common concern, but the Saanich plan calls for moving 14.5 hectares in Panama Flats to the ALR. An adjoining 8.5 hectares already has the classification.

The 14.5 hectares has been farmed for years but has never had ALR status.

“It was a somewhat historical event,” Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said of this week’s public hearing vote to designate the parcel. “Local governments don’t often get the opportunity to add land to the Agricultural Land Reserve.”

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said he has never seen it in the municipality during his 28 years as a councillor and mayor, and doesn’t recall it happening in the capital region.

The decision rests with the Agricultural Land Commission.

“legitimate concerns about the potential impact of an active farm surrounded by a residential area.”

“Of course, that’s always a challenge that communities face, particularly in Saanich where we have this interface between agriculture and residential, more suburban communities.”

Association vice-president Marlene Todd said one issue is a fear that the change to ALR designation could result in Saanich losing control over how the land is used. Councillors said that won’t happen, “but I’m a bit skeptical about it,” she said.

Another concern is the affect the change could have on migratory birds, Todd said. “They said they’re going to designate a small area for them, but this is a very sensitive area as far as the migratory birds flying north. This is where they stop.”

Murdock said councillors feel owning the land will help them avoid problems.

“What council was convinced by is we’re going to continue to have control as the landowner over what goes on there, so we can make every effort to mitigate the impact of farming.”

The parcel up for ALR designation is part of 25 hectares Saanich bought at Panama Flats in 2011 for $2.4 million from Island Berry Co. The company’s plan to farm cranberries raised flooding concerns for the municipality.

“The intent at the time of purchase was clear,” Murdock said. “We wanted to protect the flood plain and preserve the farmland for food production.

“We’re now, I think, clearing a fairly significant hurdle in order to ensure that it’s protected in perpetuity for food production.”

One of the next steps in the plan is to seek expressions of interest for the land. One large farm or a number of smaller operations are possible, Murdock said. No farming is going on right now.

Murdock said the Saanich plan also calls for a perimeter walking trail in the area as well as restoration work on the Colquitz River.

Increasing farm rates undermines regional food security

COMMISSION RECOMMENDS RAISING WATER RATES

Nov 18, 2010

If the Regional Water Supply Commission has their recommendations heeded, water rates will go up next year for residents and farmers right across the region.

Yesterday the Commission recommended an increase of 2 and a half dollars a year to the average household. And also a 1 per cent increase to the Agricultural Rate.

Boosting the farmer’s rates was something commission director Dean Murdock was opposed to.

“Hopefully there will be sympathetic directors on that board that are willing to reconsider the recommendation for the water commission. For a very minimal amount per household, we’re able to provide extraordinary value to the agricultural community.”

He refers to the CRD Board, who now have to ratify the increases for them to go into effect. They’ll likely hear the recommendations next month.

Protecting our farmland

Once again, our region is faced with the challenge of proposals to develop agricultural land for residential purposes. The market value of farm land as potential real estate is a tempting cash infusion for farmers struggling to maintain a profit. But this is a short-term solution. In the long run, it is no solution at all — and brings major consequences for future food production, land use, and our valued quality of life.

As our population grows, there is increased demand for development and pressure to break through our urban containment boundaries and encroach upon agricultural land. Many local governments in the province have done just that. But developing agricultural land to accommodate growth is killing the goose for its golden egg. It compromises our food security and makes a mockery of our land-use plans (and the citizens’ input into them), while contributing to car-dependent sprawl.

Instead of paving our farmland for housing to generate real estate income, we should be looking for more ways to support our local farmers and their food production by keeping farming profitable. There are lots of options: creating “pocket markets” to sell local foods, encouraging local governments and businesses to bring in a “buy local” policy for events, and working with senior levels of government to create incentives for grocers to offer local food choices.

As we develop an Agricultural Action Plan, I welcome your ideas and suggestions on ways to support local farmers and encourage local food production. Send me your ideas by visiting the “Contact Me” page of the website.

Buying local food doesn’t just support our farmers, it’s good for our health and environment too. Local food is fresher and has a much smaller carbon footprint. Since it arrives fresh, it needs less (or no) preservatives.

Protecting and enhancing local food production starts with saving our agricultural land and maintaining our community’s urban containment boundaries. We have already planned, through public consultation, technical analysis, and council approvals, to concentrate future density in urban centres and to buffer farm lands from suburban intrusion. It reflects our long-term commitment to a future that avoids further urban sprawl, reduces congestion and greenhouse gases, and ensures we have an abundant local food supply.

Let’s support our farmers and save our farmland. Doing so will protect our quality of life, food security, our health, and our climate for now and future generations.