A 2010 report suggests 80 per cent of farmers in the Cowichan Valley grossed less than $25,000 and 90 per cent less than $100,000. (Black Press File)

Seeds of dissent growing on Peninsula farms

Some farmers question CRD consultants’ report and disagree with aim to support first-time growers

Following the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) attempts to start a “foodland trust,” a consultants’ report has been sent to municipalities, which some Peninsula farmers say is flawed.

Establishing a land trust has been part of the CRD’s food and agriculture strategy as they want to secure land solely for agriculture, encourage new farmers and provide future food security, with Peninsula municipalities joining together to add appropriate land to the trust.

ALSO READ: Foodlands trusts help break down farming barriers: study

The CRD committee overseeing the process accepted the Foodlands Access Program Feasibility Study and sent it to municipalities, with responses expected by July.

Opponents of the report question assertions regarding the use and productivity of the land, and especially the aim to assist entry-level farmers. The cost of the project is likely to be around $100,000–$120,000 per year, for the municipalities to cover long-term. This would include preparing the land, buying machinery and providing a website and advertising budget for the rookie farmers, which would appear to pit them against already squeezed local farmers.

Jason Austin of Gatton House Farm reflects the misgivings of many in the community.

“The CRD proposed that the municipalities and others spend millions to set up a handful of entrant farmers, and to continue to subsidize them into the future, yet in 2010, 90 per cent of all farmers on Vancouver Island grossed less than $100,000 before expenses. Despite the huge expense of taxpayer money there is little chance these entrant farmers would survive.”

ALSO READ: Saanich council nourishes regional foodland trust with unanimous endorsement

The News Review has seen 2010 figures from the Cowichan Valley suggesting that before expenses, 80 per cent of farmers grossed less than $25,000 and 90 per cent less than $100,000. Members of the agricultural community say these figures are largely echoed on the Peninsula, with a Central Saanich (CS) report from 2011 stating “..as a whole, the CS agricultural sector barely covered direct expenses, generated little gross margin and no return on investment.” In 2016, the same authors of the CRD report wrote one for Saanich called “District of Saanich Agriculture and Food Security Plan Background Report” that seemed to suggest 94 per cent of farms between two and 10 acres grossed less than $25,000. This appears to be in stark contrast to the CRD report, which predicts new farmers will be able to make $100,000 gross sales on just five acres.

Other misgivings persist, such as the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) designation in Central Saanich, which includes the municipal parks, both First Nations land reserves and even a high school. As a result, opponents of the plan estimate 450 hectares within Central Saanich’s ALR to be unfarmable and are urging a review. The CRD report also contains a number of surprises, saying farmland can be used for hunting and swimming, 50 per cent of farmland in the region is unproductive and Central Saanich spends $64,600 on its 18-acre field at Island View. Critics say these statements are incorrect, although according to the CRD, the consultants stand by their report.

ALSO READ: Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

Generally, farmers seem to be aligned with the CRD’s goal to stimulate agriculture and provide food security, but the disputed information and the aim to set up new farmers has led to calls from some quarters for alternative ideas, such as a farm voucher program.

When contacted, the CRD said nothing had been decided and they were committed to a process of consultation before final recommendations are made. The municipalities are free to opt in or out, with the related costs, of any part of the proposals.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Victoria Classic Boat Festival cancelled due to safety concerns

Organizers say Inner Harbour doesn’t provide enough space for physical distancing

Owners say loss of parking pushes businesses to the brink

New Penny Farthing patio ‘will be like New Orleans, or Las Vegas’

‘Tarantula moth’ spotted in broad daylight in Victoria

Polyphemus moths are one of the largest insects in B.C.

Saanich woman says sexual assault was dismissed by police because of her ‘body language’

Patrol officers investigate sexual assault files, make decisions on what goes to Crown counsel

Greater Victoria housing market sees positive bump in June

Sales up by 76.8 per cent compared to May

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Man who rammed gate near Trudeau residence with truck faces multiple charges

The man, who police have not yet officially identified, will be charged with multiple offences

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Kelowna RCMP commander calls for more nurses during wellness checks after complaint

Southeast District Commander wants to increase Police and Crisis Team program

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

Playing his tune

Musician Daniel Morel breaks out a tune with his harmonica in front… Continue reading

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Most Read