British Columbia farmland reserve marks half a century – Goldstream News Gazette
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the creation of the British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve, discussions around this land-use planning tool remain heated. From the outset there was controversy, but the validity of the intent of this reserve, to preserve land for food crops for generations and to encourage agriculture, has been repeatedly proven, but never again. definitely over the past two years.
We import more food than we produce, and for decades the focus has been on providing food for trade rather than food for ourselves. This concentration can be managed when everything is working well – when export markets don’t experience shutdowns, when transportation routes operate seamlessly, and when we have people in jobs that support this kind of system.
But that was not the case.
We have faced serious and unprecedented challenges. Supply chain issues related to the pandemic and weather events caused by climate change have both proven deadly to our food supply. We were frightened by these events which revealed the weaknesses and fragility of a food system on which we increasingly depend. The words “food security, food resilience and self-sufficiency” have never been more relevant.
Since 2017, the BC Ministry of Agriculture has shifted its priorities to focus on expanding and supporting BC production and our domestic market. We develop programs with a conscious effort to ensure that our home is in order so that we can feed ourselves. This does not mean that we are turning away from international opportunities, but efforts are being made to build our own food resilience so that our supply remains stable in times of crisis.
Our farmland reserve in British Columbia gives us an advantage as we move forward to create a more robust and sustainable way to feed ourselves, while creating opportunities to feed others.
Our landscape is unique, allowing for the diversity of growing regions that can produce different primary goods. It is our strength. We produce more than 200 local products on these lands that we have reserved. This is in addition to traditional foods, such as wild mushrooms and salmon berries, which have been harvested for millennia by First Nations.
This separation of production areas in the agricultural land reserve is a strength that we can develop, but this separation was also alarming because we saw regions cut off from each other, which prevented the movement of food in our province.
The pinch points in our current system have demonstrated the need to more fully develop resilience in every region. We will continue to support more primary production, more agriculture, more regenerative production, more value-added processing, more regional buying and more regional sourcing. Establishing strong and sustainable food systems in our province enables us to withstand periods of disruption while stimulating regional economic development.
Because of what we have been through in recent years, British Columbians have realized the importance of British Columbia food. We understand the value of our food producers.
We are the envy of other jurisdictions that have failed to protect their food-growing lands. As we embrace the idea of resilience and food supply security, we can be grateful to have this land to rely on. The ways we produce food are changing, and that’s reflected in how the Farm Lands Commission balances its responsibilities for managing those lands.
Fifty years ago, leaders had the foresight to commit to the future of food security by creating an agricultural land bank. A lot has changed in 50 years, but I believe this is the time they envisioned.
Lana Popham is MP for Saanich South and Minister of Agriculture and Food.