No soups as of yet, but I thought I’d share with you an important issue regarding a portion of the Lower Mainland’s local farmland and our local food supply.
Within the last three months I moved into the community of Ladner. I made the move for three reasons: one, that I have always found myself generally more drawn to rural areas; two, it’s closer to where I go horse riding a couple of times a week; and three, it’s also an affordable area to live and a reasonable commute to work each day. For me, it made perfect sense. During the first couple of weeks there, I enthusiastically set off on my bike on weekends exploring the many wonderful places and spaces in the area.
During one of my first cycling excursions, I was excited to find that I was now living within a short bike ride away from many wonderful farms which contribute to the local food supply in the Lower Mainland. I envisioned myself getting up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, peddling from farm to farm, buying whatever produce I would need for the week. I felt lucky to find myself living here. And then one day when I was reading a local paper, reality struck and I learned that some of what I appreciate about the area I now live in is under threat of development.
As most of you are aware by now, Chef Steve has been tireless in his support of good, nutritious, local food. Whenever possible, he makes certain to include local food in his soups and other dishes at Place Vanier. He not only talks the talk, but walks the walk too!
I wonder how many soup lovers out there are aware of the paradox going on around us. On the one hand, Vancouver urbanites are embracing and championing local and artisan food, but on the other many are standing by – or are simply unaware – while developers are scooping up more and more of our farmland in the Lower Mainland. The land I’m speaking more specifically about is the farmland protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve.
To learn more about this reserve, please visit http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/alr/alr_main.htm.
The latest land grab is part of the BC Gateway Transportation Strategy, which supports private-sector investments in new “transload” and integrated logistics facilities, along with $2-billion in improvements to the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal. While many see this facility as an exciting economic opportunity to expand trade along the Asia Pacific corridor, others (like me) see it as being the wrong choice of land to use for these purposes, because it threatens not only local food security but our precious wildlife as well. (for detailed information about this strategy: http://www.gatewayprogram.bc.ca/)
Why is it not good for our local food supply and, ultimately, food security? Arable land in our province is actually scarce. Only five percent of land in BC is considered suitable for growing food, and only one percent of that is actually rich soil. With so little land that can be used for growing food, it must be protected. Even one of UBC’s very own experts on soil seems to agree that Delta farm land needs to be protected.
Dr. Art Bomke, a soil expert and associate professor emeritus in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC stated at a recent public information meeting on this issue, “Delta farms contribute to local food security and they provide ecological services that are critical,” Bomke said. “My strong feeling is that land-based farmers and farmers in Delta are worth saving.”
He added that,“…Delta has productive soil and a Class 1 climate, a long frost-free period, more sunshine hours than the Fraser Valley and moderate temperatures.
“The moral of the story is good land with good climate is a precious resource, and that’s particularly true in Canada,” he concluded. http://www.bclocalnews.com/community/153669055.html?mobile=true
In addition to land used for growing food, let’s not forget about the area wildlife; birds, salmon, orcas and many other species use this area as well. Read what the Wilderness Committee has to say about the potential effects of the port expansion. http://wildernesscommittee.org/what_we_do/deltaport_threatens_fraser_estuary.
A well-respected fish biologist feels so strongly about this area with respect to wildlife he has written a letter to the Sustainability Director of Port Vancouver. (Read the letter: http://thecanadian.org/item/1172-prominent-fish-biologist-questions-port-metros-expansion-plans-deltaport-langer)
What’s surprising (initially, anyway) is that so many farmers are of the view that they should be able to do whatever they wish with their land, including selling it to developers. From several articles I’ve read (including the link with the soil expert’s comments), the main issue for the farmers themselves seems to be one where they feel that they are not able to compete with cheaper imported food. Many want out of farming altogether because of this. If making a living by growing food is not possible, then they can hardly be blamed for wanting out completely. I say this is yet another very good reason for buying local food whenever possible – enabling local farmers to make a living while contributing to local food security.
So once again, think, act, and buy local whenever possible! If protecting our valuable agricultural land is important to you, consider showing your support for its protection by signing MLA Vicki Huntington’s petition, http://www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/petition-to-protect-the-agricultural-land-reserve/899. Her website is located at, http://www.vickihuntington.ca/blog/petition-alr.