Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Status of the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver occasionally issues “Metro Facts in Focus/Policy Backgrounder” about important topics that impact the livability of our region.

At a recent Metro Vancouver Regional Planning and Agricultural Committee meeting, Metro Vancouver released a backgrounder called “Farming in Metro Vancouver.” The background starts on page 189 of the committee meeting agenda.

The backgrounder starts with some general information and an overview of farming in the region.

Besides forage and pasture land, Metro Vancouver is a large producer of blueberries, cranberries, and potatoes.

Cultivated Field Crops in Metro Vancouver, 2011. Select image to enlarge.

Metro Vancouver is also home to more chickens and turkeys than people!

Livestock type and numbers in Metro Vancouver. Select table to enlarge.

What I found most interesting was the amount of land in Metro Vancouver, within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), that is actively farmed. Richmond, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Delta, and the Township of Langley all have more than 1,000 hectares of land within the ALR. The Township of Langley contains over 1/3rd of the region’s agricultural land. Looking at the following map, you can see that a good amount of ALR land within Langley is not actively farmed. In Delta, 76% of ALR land is farmed while in Richmond 59% of ALR land is farmed. 56% of ALR land is Surrey is farmed while only 44% of ALR land is the Township of Langley is farmed.

Farming status of parcels within the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Land Reserve. Select map to enlarge.

The backgrounder noted that there are five key issues that need to be addressed to protect the long-term viability of farming in Metro Vancouver.

The first major issue that needs to be addressed is farmland speculation. Some people purchase farmland in the region under the hope that it will eventually be allowed to be developed with non-farm uses. This drivers up the cost of farmland, limiting access to actual farming.

The second major issue is getting farmers access to the capital needed to purchase farm equipment and improve the productivity of land.

The third major issues that needs to be address is the marketing of local food. In Metro Vancouver, this means finding better ways to make more local food available in grocery stores. It also means integrating locally produced food into Vancouver’s food culture.

Farmland in Metro Vancouver provides ecological services in the region; providing habitat for wildlife, managing flooding, and regulating the climate as a few example. Metro Vancouver, the province, and local governments need to ensure that farmland can still provide these important services to the region.

Finally with our climate changing, policies and strategies need to be adopted to allow farming to continue, even as our climate shifts.

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