Okanagan land linking workshop matches farmers and landowners

Okanagan land linking workshop matches farmers and landowners

Want land? Got land? We want you.

Want land? Got land? We want you.

Are you a farmer looking for land? Are you a landowner looking for farmers? Join us to network, talk farm leases, and learn about how the B.C. Land Matching Program is connecting landowners with farmers in the Columbia Basin.

On Oct. 20, 2018, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Young Agrarians will host an Okanagan Land Link in Coldstream.

Land Linking events are a combination of education on the ins and outs of accessing land (options like leasing and licensing land) with social networking to connect landowners and land seekers. Landowners from across the Okanagan are encouraged to come, as well as farmers who are interested in farming in the area, whether you’re growing veggies, raising animals, starting an orchard, keeping bees, or more.

“Our goal is to create opportunities for people with land and people looking for land to connect with each other,” says Young Agrarians Land Program Manager Darcy Smith.

“The Land Link is an avenue for us to share important resources, like our B.C. Land Access Guide, educate farmers and landowners about land agreements, and raise awareness about the B.C. Land Matching Program.”

In the Okanagan, Young Agrarians provides an online and searchable inventory of B.C. land opportunities, personalized and regionally based matchmaking services for new farmers and landowners, including referrals to business and technical support services, and educational events and resources to increase knowledge and facilitate matches between new farmers and landowners.

Why? Aspiring farmers face a wide range of barriers to getting established, from limited training options to the high cost of farmland. Land in the Okanagan averages a considerable price tag of $91,978 per acre, according to Farm Credit Canada’s 2017 Farmland Values Report. It’s no surprise why access to land is one of the biggest barriers new farmers face, and why leasing land has become a popular solution that enables young entrepreneurs to start small businesses and put more land into production.

Aaron Patterson at Crooked Sky Farm is a small-scale farmer who uses intensive growing practices to produce certified organic vegetables on four acres of leased land. “Leasing land is the only viable option for me,” explains Aaron, which is true for many new farmers. But how does a new farmer go about finding land to lease? How do landowners with underutilized farmland find these potential farmers? And ultimately, how can they establish a mutually beneficial agreement that serves both of their needs long-term?

The 2016 Canadian Census of Agriculture shows a loss of 727 farms in the Okanagan region from 2011 figures. These regional declines reflect the provincial trend, from 19,759 farms in 2011 to 17,528 farms in 2016, and in the area of land under production: B.C. lost 21,172 hectares of farmland from 2011-2016.

The average age of farm operators in B.C. is 56 years old.

This all points to the urgent need to increase local food production, increase local economic development, and support new entrants into agriculture across the Okanagan. The Okanagan is seeing more and more farms selling directly to the public through farm gate sales and farmers’ markets, with more than a dozen seasonal markets in communities across the Okanagan.

For landowners, the benefits of leasing out land to a farmer may include tax incentives, seeing land become – or stay – productive, improvements to land and soil health, being able to take on less management of the land themselves, new relationships, and, of course, fresh veggies and other farm-fresh products.

The Okanagan Land Link workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2018, at the Women’s Institute Hall in Coldstream. The event is free. For more information and to register, visit http://youngagrarians.org/land-link-coldstream-2018 or call 778-554-3760.