It would have been easy for Sooke council to jump on the bandwagon to support the Capital Regional District’s Regional Foodlands Access Program.
After all, it’s not politically correct to argue against the concept of food security or any strategies that move to establish new farmers and promote food security. The CRD has said that only 50 per cent of the CRD’s ALR is in food production and that, with more than 50 per cent of the region’s farmers retiring in the next decade, high land prices may prevent new farmers from entering the farming sector.
That’s why Coun. Al Beddows is to be congratulated for moving beyond the green rhetoric and high-minded philosophic underpinnings of the plan to look at some stark realities.
It appears that he realized that the CRD’s good intentions, when coupled with a bad approach, were likely to lead to poor results.
For one thing, the only land dedicated to the land trust to date is located in Saanich and North Saanich. Further, it was acknowledged that no appropriate land exists in the Sooke region for the program.
That means that Sooke would be relegated to a funding source for the project, and not an active, direct beneficiary.
And while some may argue that this might be a parochial approach that ignores the bigger picture, Beddows pushed back against that idea and brought the issue home.
He argued that the $10,000 a year that Sooke residents would be spending on the program, while not a huge sum, would amount to $100,000 in the next 10 years and mused about what could be accomplished in Sooke if that money was dedicated to food security in our own backyard.
It’s a good question.
If Sooke, or any municipality outside the areas where land trust property is located, chose to dedicate funding to initiatives like community gardens or to the support of the small farms in their own backyards great things might be accomplished.
But there’s the rub.
While pushing back against funding the CRD’s solution to food security has framed the argument, the next step is to carry that argument to the next logical point.
If Beddows and Sooke’s council agree that local food security programs are important, and are hesitant to fund the existing plan, they need to take the next step to come up with a plan to promote farming in our own backyards.
That’s the difference between obstruction and vision.