Marginal land and farming outside the box

Posted by Andrew Adams on December 09, 2022

On a snowy November Sunday afternoon gatherers came to have panel discussions around “farming outside the box”!

A core mission of Young Agrarians is knowledge transfer. Knowledge is one of the most important nutrients in the fertilizer needed to grow more farmers on “marginal land”. We love any chance to get together, whether online or in-person, to share and learn – we recently gathered at UNBC in Prince George for a compelling discussion on creative land use solutions. 

Panelists Noemie Touchette, Barry Seymour, David Connell and Andrew Adams 

Given the current lack of affordability of more productive land classes, farmers are having to think outside the box when it comes to their production. 

Our panelists were chosen to aid in the discussion at our UNBC event based on their experience in land management and farming in unique ways.

The Panelists were the following amazing individuals:

Barry Seymour, who is currently working as a consultant providing advisory and management services to primarily Non-Government Indigenous Organizations. He has been: an executive member with the First Nations Land Management Initiative (Bill C-49) that negotiated the First Nation Lands Management Framework Agreement with the Government of Canada in 1999; a Chief for Lheidli T’enneh First Nation from 1995 to 2005 and was instrumental in the negotiation of an Agreement in Principle in the BC Treaty making process; the initial CEO of the Lheit-lit’en Development Corporation which had during his tenure created in excess of 1,000,000 man-hours of employment and established Band-owned businesses that continue to generate significant own source financial contributions to the Band; a small business owner, that owned several pieces of logging equipment and trucks; the founding President of the Prince George Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation; a senior manager with the Prince George Native Friendship Centre and a Director with the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centers; a Vice-Tribal Chief for the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council and a Band Manager for two First Nations.

He is a strong believer that with proper planning and meaningful consultation processes you can balance economic development while maintaining high environmental standards.

Andrew Adams is the co-founder and farmer at Hope Farm Organics in Prince George. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture from Kansas State University. His partner Janie has a Bachelor of education from UNBC.

After seeing the state of food security and agriculture in the north the two felt obligated to make real change in the form of organic food production and thus created Hope Farm Organics in 2011 on class 7 marginal land.

Andrew is also an agriculture land commissioner for the ALC on the north panel, and a business mentor for the Young Agrarians business mentorship program as well as a BC land matcher with the Young Agrarians.

Currently Andrew is working to transform his vegetable fields into agroforestry style orchards in response to climate change models while operating a commercial greenhouse and spending time fishing, hunting and foraging in the forests surrounding his farm with his two sons and wife.

Dr. David Connell a professor at the university of northern BC’s. Some of his topics of particular interest and study include agricultural planning and farmland protection, local food systems, and the quest for community. David sees producing and consuming one’s own food as a foundation for community – and the first step toward creating a more sustainable society. David also studies the conservation of the Ancient Cedars of BC’s inland rainforest in the Robson Valley.

Since 2012, David’s primary research focus has been agricultural land use planning to protect farmland. This is a national research program at all levels of government (local, regional, metropolitan, provincial, federal). His unique contribution to this field centres on policy analysis: measuring the strength of policy focus in legislative frameworks.

Recent research projects include estimating the socio-economic benefits of farmers markets, strengthening farmers markets through strategic business planning and developing a regional food hub in central interior BC. David has done evaluation of agricultural area plans in BC. Dave’s ability at growing a very impressive strawberry patch is well known in the north.

Noemie Touchette the operations manager of Northern Lights Estate Winery in Prince George has experience with production types not normally seen in the North. She has worked in organic vegetable production in BC as well as cut flowers and tree nurseries. Noemie helped build Northern BC’s first fruit winery which is now Canada’s largest fruit winery. When Noemie isn’t operating the winery and its production, she enjoys life on her homestead south of Prince George with her daughters.

Here is a summary of what we heard:

  • Given high prices of better classes of farmland, farmers are having to think outside the box when it comes to their production.
  • Many opportunities exist within the agriculture industry on land typically thought as being marginal. 
  • Specialized hyper niche operations can be very valuable and operate very well on lands considered marginal by traditional production methods. 
  • Changing climatic conditions means that some lands considered marginal may become less marginal.
  • Potential opportunities on “marginal land”  may include:
    • inland fish farming such as arctic char, rainbow trout and tilapia  
  • Forestry licensees are seeking to adhere to the social concerns  of round-up on crown land. With this comes opportunities  for sheep farmers to graze crown land to reduce competition with conifer plantations. 
  • Greenhouse operations growing niche market products can utilize relatively small footprints of land with high production.
  • When choosing “marginal land”, there are some key considerations one should consider, such as climatic norms, projected climate norms, availability of water, hydroelectric power, distance to market and to inputs.
Arctic Char farm Delicasea

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion on farming outside the box on marginal land: 

  1. “Marginal land” is a western settler term not appropriate for when considering non-traditional approaches to food production. 
  2. Many opportunities are possible on “marginal land” for food production
  3. One must be willing to seek out a lot of information on desired “outside the box” systems.
  4. Changing climatic conditions and supply chain issues are big considerations in assessing land for your desired production type. 
  5.  Leasing and purchasing “marginal” land can be very inexpensive.


Are you ready to start your new outside the box farming enterprise and need help finding land? Do you have land you would like to make available for farming?

Give us a shout on the form below or email Andrew at 

Stay connected with YA in in the Central interior / North for more knowledge transfers, networking opportunities this winter!

The B.C. Land Matching Program is funded in Central and Northern B.C. by the Province of British Columbia and the Real Estate Foundation of BC.