Throughout the City of Vernon, there are hundreds of acres of underused or vacant agricultural land. There’s close to 100 acres along Bella Vista alone.
A recent proposal in these pages suggested that Vernon needs to develop this land for small footprint housing and for industry as a means of retaining and attracting a young generation and ensuring the future viability of Vernon.
There is a better way. I propose that in part, this land be developed for small-scale agriculture, rentable to young, innovative farmers growing innovative crops in small plots.
Other parts of the land could be developed as community gardens.
Other parts could be developed as low-impact housing, on the model that each housing development retains its agricultural potential, with enough space to grow enough food to feed the people living in the development.
Coupled with a dedicated year-round farmer’s market downtown and an innovative, flexible, drop-in processing facility to encourage new added-value food products, this method of development could put Vernon on the global map as one of the greenest cities anywhere.
At the same time, it would boost our tourism potential considerably, support the culture and dreams of young generations, and do so in a way that does not require an investment of a million dollars in land in order to be a farmer.
We spend millions on art galleries, museums, and sport complexes for the purpose of making Vernon a place well worth living in, and it is money largely well spent. Some money spent on this idea, most of it recoverable in fees or even in a strict business model, would bring an equal or greater return.
Certainly, it would do more for Vernon than would Vernon’s transformation into yet another of thousands of nearly identical small cities across North America, over-saturated with housing, unable to feed itself, and industrially poor.
What’s more, despite all of their efforts to industrialize, our neighbouring cities, both Kelowna and Penticton, still rely heavily on agricultural tourism to survive.
Agriculture is not a hindrance to economic or social growth.
Thanks to the Agricultural Land Reserve and our small size, we have the potential to not only become the new centre of the Okanagan, but also one of the world’s truly innovative future cities.
Freiburg, Germany did it in the 1990s by replacing a NATO base with green housing that generates more electricity than it consumes.
That one development took it from being a quaint, sleepy provincial city to one of the must-go cities in Germany. Extensive green industrial development followed. We can do that here for the new century thanks to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
That’s how vital it is.