Can a working farm in Sooke work?

Letter

It’s become apparent recently that many Sooke citizens would like to see their tax dollars utilized in support of some form of unionized public works department, as opposed to the outsourcing of services.  Now, I know for a fact that many services which are outsourced, are being outsourced to small, locally based businesses, which I think is pretty cool.  I know some of the people who are taking care of elements of our community infrastructure on a contractual basis, and they are doing a great job.  But this letter is not intended to discuss the relative merits for and against outsourcing, I simply wanted to mention that outsourcing is done in our District, and that it can work really well for everyone if done mindfully.

Over the past couple of years, the concept that Sooke could purchase Woodside Farm and maintain it as a community owned, working farm has floated about.  Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea, however, the practicality of paying a mortgage on this property through profits made on the farming component seems dubious to me at best. Namely because farms these days don’t seem to be able to generate any profit, unless they are of the ‘factory’ variety, or well positioned as tourism-based entities. Woodside Farm has potential to generate economy in other respects, like tourism and the like, and I for one would love to see that property preserved and owned by our community, but there’s a lot of work to do to get it up to speed. But if there is vision and desire, I bet it could fly.

When one looks at this property through the right lens, one might even see farmed land sharing space with solar power generating cells. T’Souke is becoming recognized as leaders in the field of solar power, (no pun intended) and a partnership between the District and T’Souke First Nation, could raise this property to a whole other level. I find myself constantly amazed by the adaptability, innovation and progressive nature of this land’s indigenous people. What they are doing is inspiring, to say the least. It behooves the District to do everything it can to coordinate efforts with the First Nation to bring clean power and sustainability to all people who call Sooke home.

There has also been interest expressed in developing a composting facility in Sooke, which could potentially service the entire South Island region. To place such a facility nearby to our sewage treatment plant makes a lot of sense, and it is quite possible that the profits made in running this composting facility could go toward paying the mortgage on Woodside Farm. The operating costs would include wages for employees, and if it makes sense to start building a municipal works department, this might be the opportunity we’d need to get going on that, without putting the environment at undue risk. The solar cells could provide clean power for this facility, creating a sustainable, valuable community asset kept up by generations of Sookies.

This idea is not my idea. I’ve heard it mentioned many times during EDC meetings, and I always felt it was a great idea just waiting to be discussed, however it just hasn’t really come up. Which is why I’m writing this letter.

Don Brown’s concept of community-owned, coop-run public service utilities I think has merit, however I don’t personally feel that something as crucial to our environment as a sewage system is the best place to start experimenting with this.  Perhaps a composting facility, and a municipally-owned farm with solar power generation can be our community experiment. It could be a gateway to discovering new ways of building sustainability and cooperative spirit into our community.

Lorien Arnold

Sooke