Hubert Pomerleau picks Red Delicious apples from an orchard in Summerland in this 2016 photo. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fruit growers throughout British Columbia will face additional challenges. (Summerland Review file photo)

Hubert Pomerleau picks Red Delicious apples from an orchard in Summerland in this 2016 photo. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fruit growers throughout British Columbia will face additional challenges. (Summerland Review file photo)

COLUMN: Efforts preserve and promote local agriculture

Farming will remain an important element in the region

Agriculture and agriculture-related businesses have long been a strong economic driver in Summerland.

This sector is an important and sustaining part of our history. According to the Summerland Museum website, the first commercial orchard was planted on pre-empted land in 1888.

The Dominion Experimental Farm (now Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre or PARC) opened in 1914 “to help aspiring farmers and orchardists, many of whom had little experience with the practicalities of fruit farming.”

Through the 1900s, packinghouses, canneries and other industries related to fruit growing provided much of the employment in the Summerland area. The first winery opened in 1981, starting the move for wine grapes to join tree fruits as a major crop.

Today, more than 30 per cent of the land within Summerland’s boundaries — approximately 2,781 hectares — is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The Agricultural Land Commission, through the provincial Agricultural Land Commission Act, works with roughly 150 local governments in B.C. as it “supports coordinated and collaborative planning to ensure agricultural lands are protected.”

Summerland’s Official Community Plan, Agricultural Plan, Cultural Plan and other community-driven documents attest to the value residents place on agriculture.

READ ALSO: Engaging youth key to sustainable future in agriculture, says B.C. teacher

READ ALSO: ‘Underwhelming’ support for agriculture industry: BC Fruit Growers’ Association

Farming will continue to be a strong economic driver for decades to come because Summerland is home to knowledgeable and innovative farmers. We also have the all-important agricultural triad of natural resources: soil, water and climate.

Council also continues to play a role in advancing regional food initiatives.

Through a Rural Dividend Fund grant, in 2019 the district hired a Summerland consultant to develop a proposal for the South Okanagan Food Innovation and Processing Hub.

The hub, based in Summerland, will build regional (Thompson-Okanagan) agri-food capacity and connect food and agri-tech entrepreneurs to the resources they need to develop, commercialize and market food products. This will create a more sustainable, ecologically resilient and economically robust regional food system.

The hub’s proposal was completed and presented to potential partners in April; the district expects to submit the proposal in June if the province is still able to commit funding to ministry of agriculture’s BC Food Hub Network initiative.

The Okanagan Bioregion Food System project, a two-year research project being conducted in the Okanagan by the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, was funded, in part, by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, with support from member municipalities, including Summerland.

The report, expected by the end of 2020, will provide policymakers with quantifiable data on the economic, environmental, and social opportunities of moving to a more regionalized food system.

The report will also identify policy gaps and barriers at all levels of government and make recommendations on how these can be addressed and removed.

In 2018 at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, I attended a session covering an advisory committee’s interim report on recommendations on revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission. The ALR/ALC revitalization advisory committee was established by the agriculture ministry and included members with varying perspectives and expertise in land use planning, resource management, the ALR/ALC and agriculture.

The land reserve is the land in B.C. set aside (reserved) for agriculture; the land commission is “an independent administrative tribunal dedicated to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.”

The Agricultural Land Commission Act is the legislative framework under which the ALC operates.

The presentation identified two urgent needs: that the province shift to an ‘Agriculture First’ focus in the land reserve, and that speculation and non-farm impacts on land in the reserve be curbed. (The final report added two more issues requiring immediate government action: include the land commission in decision-making and provide the resources necessary to ensure successful revitalization.)

A discussion paper to assist with stakeholder consultation and public engagement was released in February 2018. The UBCM’s submission to the agriculture advisory committee stated, among other things, that: “The preservation of farmland and food security are intertwining issues. Over the past 10 years, UBCM members have endorsed multiple resolutions calling for increased provincial food production, increased availability of local produce and farm products, and better support for farmers.”

Toni Boot is the mayor of Summerland.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

AgricultureColumnist

Just Posted

North Westside residents can dispose of their unwanted bulky items between June 30 and July 14, 2021. (File photo)
North Westside residents can soon get rid of unwanted bulky items

Large household items can be disposed of at North Westside Transfer Station June 30 to July 14

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read