A South Surrey farmer has come to the defence of his neighbour after a Morgan Creek couple filed an official noise complaint against the operator of a nearby blueberry field.
Last week, Peace Arch News published an article regarding the complaint by Ross Paterson and Melissa Modenesi, who recently moved to Morgan Creek from Vancouver.
The couple complained that the noise from a pair of wind turbines was preventing them from sleeping. The farmer purchased the turbines to prevent frost damage on his blueberries.
After the article went online, nearly 300 people commented on the story – mostly in support of the farmer – including Avtar Longiye.
Longiye wrote that the comments from the new residents exuded “false entitlement.”
Contacted Sunday, Longiye said the article “set me off” because the blueberry farmer is doing whatever he can to minimize damage to his crop.
He said the article brought back memories of other criticisms South Surrey farmers have endured, including complaints about blueberry cannons and slow-driving machinery using the roadways.
“I do feel there is not a lot of respect for the farmers,” Longiye said. “The person who put those turbines in to keep their berry warm, we have that problem, too. We have a lot of berry that dies. We’ve been dealing with it for a few years.”
While people in the urban setting tend to complain about farm land, whether it’s noise, smell or traffic, farmers – who were there first – are feeling pressure from urban sprawl.
Longiye has been growing berries near Highway 15 and 40 Avenue for 16 years. Even in that short time, his operations have had to be adjusted due to pressure caused by encroaching South Surrey subdivisions.
The most prohibitive change in the last couple decades, he said, has been the cost of land.
When Longiye purchased his farm in 2005, the cost per acre was about $100,000 for agricultural land. According to property listings, as of Monday, the cost per acre is about $170,000, depending on the area.
“If we want to expand our operations, we can’t because it’s prohibitively expensive to buy more land to farm. You can’t really make a living as a farmer,” he said. “The price of land is too high.”
The future of farming in the South Surrey area is “starting to look bleak,” he added.
“If you look at the prices of blueberries, just for example, they haven’t gone up that much since we bought this farm. But the land price has gone up. You can’t really see a lot of new farmers coming in.”
Longiye said there are a number of small challenges caused by urban sprawl that, over time, build and increase pressure on farmers.
One example he provided was the new median at the 40 Avenue and Highway 15 (176 Street) intersection. While he supports the safety measure, that route was once used for farm vehicles to move from field to field.
“I remember farmers could easily cross the highway, but this median they put all the way down – for safety obviously – it has affected the ability for their machine to go from one field to the next,” Longiye said.
Another road-related challenge, he said, is inconsiderate motorists when farmers are moving farm equipment or transporting their harvest to a processing facility.
“There’s not a lot of respect for that,” he said. “People should be aware this is a rural area, it’s summer, there’s going to be harvesting going on. Have a little bit of respect for that. Don’t harass people in that way, try to make some room, try to keep a wide berth. Give them a chance to be safe with what they’re transporting.”
Longiye, who also works in the tech industry in downtown Vancouver, said he’s aware of the lifestyle clash.
“People are a little more fast-paced and a little impatient with things,” he said. “I just sort of try to be more aware of what’s going on in the neighbourhood, and I sort of adjust my expectations accordingly to where I’m going.”
Designed to protect agricultural land from speculators and developers, Longyie also said 2019’s Bill 15 – the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act – has had unintended consequences for B.C. farmers.
The bill, he said, prevents him from building a secondary home on his land for his parents. Instead, he’s forced to search for a home in the South Surrey neighbourhood.
“You can’t have those multigenerational type of households. It affects us in that respect,” he said. “Anybody who’s in the farming lifestyle, they tend to have larger families, historically. Bigger families, everybody sticks together and you work the land.”