Protect ALR land in Sooke

On behalf of the Sooke Region Food CHI Society, a non-profit society established in 2007, and Board of Directors we write to express our concerns regarding an application to exclude farmland on Caldwell Road from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).  This application is currently before the District of Sooke and we understand others may be forthcoming.

The district has stated that the development of an Agriculture Plan for 2011 is a priority.  It was just last year, May 2010, that the district adopted its  Official Community Plan (OCP)  which includes agriculture and food security, see section 4.5 p. 39.  One can visit the OCP on the district’s web site – www.sooke.ca.

The vision of the district and the goals and objectives of the OCP clearly endorse, “the need to protect farm land for the sustainability of the growth of Sooke and food security for its residents.” Citizens throughout the public consultation process also were clear in their comments – protect our farm lands, and support food security.

Sooke Food CHI, with over 200 members, is asking the district to place an immediate moratorium on all applications to exclude farm lands from the ALR until such time an agricultural plan has been developed and adopted.

Sooke Food CHI through its farm mentorship program and with the support of existing farmers in our region must advocate the conservancy of farm lands (such as the Caldwell property) which is flat, arable and already cleared to make farming possible for our new farmers and their families.

We encourage all interested citizens to make sure to attend the district’s open house Thursday afternoon, April 14 up Sooke at the community hall, from 4 to 8 p.m. Sooke Food CHI will be there, as will planners from the district. Now is the time to engage district staff and councillors in discussion to conserve our farm lands and consider provisions in the Agricultural plan to promote a number of land tenure options for new farmers, community farms and community gardens.

Together we can promote and support local food production, protect our farm lands and sustain a viable food production system.

Once the farmlands are gone, they cannot be replaced.

Phoebe Dunbar and Mary Alice Johnson, directors, Sooke Food CHI