The Comox Valley is a well-kept agricultural secret on Vancouver Island. Luckily, the right people are starting to notice the sweet soils and fabulous coastal climate here. Young farmer transplants have been arriving steadily and starting thriving farm operations.
Noticing the need for even more young farmers, the Comox Valley Food Round Table created a report in April 2014, outlining the needs of young farmers and landowners who are interested in leasing their land.
This report is a valuable snapshot of a small Vancouver Island community that is like many others. The Comox Valley is home to over 500 farms that produce a wide assortment of food products: vegetable and fruit crops, livestock, poultry, animal products, greenhouse products, mushrooms, honey, and maple syrup products. The Comox Valley Farmers’ Market is a bustling, year-round indoor/outdoor market with up to 65 vendors on the field, over half of them selling primary ag products.
But the Comox Valley faces the same aging farmer crisis faced by every other farming community on our continent: in 2011 only 25 farmers in the Comox Valley were 35 years old or younger. The report surmised that Comox Valley farmers are now at an average age of 59!
While the Comox Valley has lots of arable and ALR zoned land, the Regional District (CVRD) estimates that the total area of crops in 2011 is 4,279 ha (about 18.5% of the total area in the ALR.) Only about 17% of the ALR land growing crops in our region is producing fruit and vegetables (248 ha.) Meanwhile, 73% of the total area in crops is being used for hay (23, 054 ha.) (Statistics Canada)
Every year, a handful of new farmers move in to start their own farm operations. But how can we support them to access land? Our Grow A Farmer – Vancouver Island Program hopes to address issues of land access in the Comox Valley and across the Island!
Want to read more? Check out the full report here!