Monday, July 16, 2012

Agritourism key to farming viability

Yesterday, I went on a wine tasting tour of four of the many local wineries in the Township of Langley. A few weeks ago, I went to one of the many on-site farm food stores in Langley. One of the neat things about living in Langley and the Fraser Valley is that you can have your whole meal from food grown in the same or neighbouring municipality. This is something that is not available to many large regions in Canada and I think speaks to the value of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

When I was at Krause Berry Farm yesterday, they were having a Framers' Feast event which featured products from other local farms as well. The event was completely packed full of people. I know that Langley has put a lot of effort into sports tourism, but I wonder if an equal amount of effort has been put into supporting local Langley Farm Fresh food and agritourism. To be honest, agritourism hasn't been the top of mind for me until recently, but I now think it is important for Langley and the future of farming in the region.

Agritourism promotes local farms and hopefully brings more business to their doors. This should hopefully further increase the viability of farming in the ALR. The worst thing that could happen is for farms to turn into grass fields. Once that happens, there is usually pressure to develop the property into some form of housing. One tricky thing that is happening in the ALR is the conversion of farm land into what I’ll call large estates. These 4 acres lots meet the minimum requirements for the ALR, but the land becomes nothing more than a large backyard for very large houses.

Another benefit of agritourism is that it connects people back to where their food comes from. A strong agritourism marketing and support campaign would draw people from places like Vancouver who instead of buying food imported from California at their favourite Nature Mart, would come to Delta, Richmond, Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack to enjoy local food that supports our local economy and has a smaller environmental footprint. If people feel connected to where their food comes from and farming, they might also more strongly oppose development that is slowly eating away at our precious farmland.

Over the last month I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to support the long-term viability of farming in the South of Fraser and Fraser Valley, all levels of government must play a larger role in marketing and supporting local farms.

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