A vegetable farm in Coldstream is growing fast, and the company is looking to ensure its seasonal worker accommodations grow along with it.
VegPro International owns roughly 550 acres of farmland on Ricardo Road, where it operates a vegetable farm seven months a year under its Vert Nature subsidiary.
The company currently has six full-time workers and 20 to 40 seasonal workers, but it’s projecting it will need space for nearly 50 more workers in the short term.
In fact, housing space on the farm has already reached capacity.
“The company presently has 28 beds, and due to limited housing space on the farm, had to rent properties in Vernon to help accommodate workers for the growing operation,” VegPro stated in its rationale to council, which also suggested that the project could help free up the rental market in Vernon and Coldstream.
The company has sought a bylaw amendment with the District of Coldstream to add a two-storey modular style dorm to house an additional 48 temporary farm workers. The project would include four modular trailers per storey.
But one neighbouring resident is concerned about what kind of life these employees will have in the rural Lavington community when they are off work.
“There are ammenities for them in Vernon, there’s nothing for them here,” said the neighbour, who worries about what kind of activity may take place in and around the trailers.
VegPro has been producing leafy greens at the Coldstream facility since 2018, and the company plans to increase its production over the next three years, according to a report to council.
“Vegetable production is a labour intensive farming industry. It is estimated that the labour demand is one worker per 105,000 pounds of product,” the report states.
Farm labour is hard to find in the current local environment, the report continues.
“The Okanagan region is not able to meet the industry’s labour and accommodation needs.”
The bylaw application was presented to the District of Coldstream council at its May 25 meeting. The proposal meets the district’s requirements, except for the number of farm workers residing on farmlands.
However, the project has approval from the Agriculture Land Commission so long as the building is only used for temporary foreign workers. If that use isn’t met for a period of two years, it will need to be removed.
The housing site, located just north of Coldstream Creek, is about 700 metres from the nearest neighbouring residence. The building design is also compact and set on a temporary foundation (making it removable) and is clustered with the three residential buildings that already exist on the property.
Coldstream council gave first and second readings to the zoning bylaw amendment May 25. The next step will be to hold a public hearing at an upcoming council meeting.