North Okanagan residents are being urged to take an active role in the future of food production and the economy.
The Regional District of North Okanagan is currently developing an agricultural area plan, and an online survey has had input from 100 farmers and 200 residents.
But Mike Macnabb, regional agricultural advisory committee chairperson, would like to see more surveys filled out by the Sept. 1 deadline.
“With the general public, there is apathy over the issue. As long as there is food on the table, they are not too concerned about it,” he said.
“But it (agriculture) is a major economic driver. We’re sitting on a gold mine.”
Statistics Canada states that in 2011, total gross farm receipts were estimated to be worth more than $126 million and farms provided (direct and indirect) jobs for 4.6 per cent of the labour force in the North Okanagan.
The first phase of the agricultural area plan includes a land use inventory, an agricultural profile and an agricultural market opportunities analysis that will be available in the fall.
Macnabb is convinced agriculture can provide opportunities for a region needing increased employment.
“We have the soil, the climate, the water and the transportation infrastructure,” he said, adding that being able to feed the local population is also vital.
“We’re losing potential sources of food from other areas because of climate change so we need to become more self-sufficient,” he said.
“We can create jobs and support an industry here.”
The agricultural plan will align with the regional growth strategy and local community plans.
“The agricultural area plan is an opportunity to raise public awareness of local food production and identify barriers and opportunities for growth in the local agriculture industry,” said Anthony Kittel, regional growth strategy co-ordinator.
“The plan will be developed with input from farmers, food producers and consumers, and it will provide a valuable opportunity for North Okanagan residents to discuss the future of agriculture.”
The survey can be completed at www.rdno.ca/agplansurvey or paper forms are available at the regional district office.