Southern BC: It’s a question that stumps many of us, from farmers to food policy makers to farmers’ market fans: how do we get more farmers on farmland when land prices are so high?
Farmland access and land management are hot topics in British Columbia. A fresh-off-the-press report by FarmFolk CityFolk, CRFAIR, Young Agrarians and Deer Crossing the Art Farm profiles four on-the-ground projects as inspiration for land access solutions.
The report’s authors affirm that they are “jointly committed to ensuring that the next generation of farmers in BC have access to land to develop viable farm operations, and that elder generations of farmers are able to leave a legacy of fertile land.” The report further acknowledges the vital role of Indigenous foodsheds & territories and “the colonial history of agricultural land policies… [We] strive to maintain open dialogue with Indigenous communities to ensure our work respects and supports Indigenous land rights and food systems.”
Four Innovative Approaches to Farmland Access
1. Foodlands Trust Project
FarmFolk CityFolk has partnered with UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems to create the Foodlands Trust Project, an entity that will acquire and hold land and offer long-term tenure for community groups to manage the land for farming and foraging.
The Foodlands Trust Project complements the ALR by facilitating affordable access to foodlands. Placing land in trust essentially removes it from the private market and ensures use for farming and food activities. It addresses rising land values, non-farm uses, and speculation driven by market dynamics.
Benefits of a Foodlands Trust:
- Protected farmland
- Land access for current & new farmers
- Secure leases for farmers
- Support for new entrants into agriculture
- Farmland kept in production
- Provision of farmer training and resources
- Support for the formation of cooperatives
- Succession planning options: non-family farm transfers, supported retirement on the land &- new farmer mentorship
2. CRFAIR’s Municipally Supported Farmlands Trust Initiative
CRFAIR (Capital Region Food and Agriculture Roundtable Initiative) has developed a regional farmland trust in cooperation with local and municipal governments to advance a local government farmland acquisition fund and trust that holds and makes public lands available for farming and food activities in the Capital Regional District (Southern Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands.)
The initiative encourages the development of local government policy tools and the management of public lands to support farmland protection, access, and utilization for food and farming.
Benefits of Regional Farmlands Trusts:
- increases the use of public lands for food production
- elevates land use planning for farming and food activities on par with planning for other sustainability priorities like water, parklands, and affordable housing
- increases the protection of farmland
- leverages resources to support farming
- ensures the utilization of farmland for food production
3. Young Agrarians Matchmaker Pilot
Young Agrarians in collaboration with Banque de Terres, and partnership with the City of Surrey has just launched a Land Matchmaker Pilot in the Fraser Valley. The service will provide matchmaking between landowners and land seekers, facilitation of lease agreements, and legal support. The program has a dedicated coordinator to connect new farmers to farmland.
Benefits of Land Matching Services:
- support more new and young farmers to access land to start farm businesses
- connect and support young and new farmer readiness with business planning & farm extension services
- educate landowners & new farmers about lease & license structures
- ensure that existing farmland continues to be farmed
- support governments to meet regional agricultural planning goals
4. The Smart Farm Project
The Smart Farm Project, created byDeer Crossing the Art Farm on the Sunshine Coast, explores whether increased housing density on small lots using low footprint designs could catalyze small farms and provide affordable housing for new and young farmers.
Land costs too much and farming makes too little. While the bulk of the province’s prime farmland is in the ALR there is land outside of the ALR with productive potential. These properties are generally smaller than average ALR lots, are typically serviced and cleared and in many cases have some type of housing already in place.
Impacts of The Smart Farm Project:
- launch of three Smart Farm pilots on the Sunshine Coast within the next two years
- advocate for and support Smart Farm developments across Southern BC
- unique and replicable models for integrated housing and farming developments on non-ALR land
Head on over to read the report here and share it around! These innovative ideas, lead by highly creative and community-minded folks are taking root in our communities – stay connected to watch them grow!