An agricultural “land matching” pilot project with roots in Surrey is growing in the rest of Metro Vancouver, too, thanks in part to investment from federal and provincial governments.
The goal of the project is to connect new farmers with those who have fertile land in the relatively expensive southwest corner of B.C.
Think Craigslist, for farming.
With $25,000 in joint funding for 2018, the government investment announced Friday (Jan. 5) “will help create opportunities for young and beginning farmers, leading to economic growth and helping to strengthen our middle class,” according to Lawrence MacAulay, federal minister of agriculture and agri-foods.
Regionally, the pilot program has been operating since the fall of 2016.
In Surrey last February, a website called farmableNOW.ca was launched by the City of Surrey and Young Agrarians as a “land-linking” portal focused on farming, with hopes of changing the city’s agricultural future for the better.
In addition to helping connect farmers with people who are leasing out agricultural land, the website also provides resources, including how to create a business plan, and connects newbies to companies that deal in things like equipment, fertilizer and seed.
“It’s a way to link people not just to land, but to link people to all of the pieces of the industry they will need,” Mike Bose, a fouth-generation Surrey farmer, explained at the time.
Friday’s funding announcement said the Metro Vancouver-wide project will be led by Young Agrarians in partnership with Farm Folk City Folk Society, in collaboration with Quebec’s L’ARTERRE.
“My mandate includes getting more young people farming, and making sure that they have the land to farm on through projects like the Metro Vancouver land-matching project is an essential first step,” stated Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of agriculture.
“Part of why we established Grow BC was to help young farmers access land. I believe strongly that agriculture has the potential to unlock prosperity throughout our entire province, and we need farmland and farmers to make that happen.”
According to a government release, the pilot project in Surrey matched new farmer Roger Woo with David Feldhaus, a local land owner.
“Woo, a former chef with a passion for local, organically grown and sustainably farmed produce, was just the type of person that Feldhaus was searching for when he was looking to expand agricultural activity on his farmland,” according to the release.
“I knew I wanted to farm in B.C., but I saw significant challenges to acquiring the appropriate farmland in the Lower Mainland,” stated Woo, who runs The Farmhouse Bard (thefarmhouse.bard).
“Through the land-matching program, I’ve been able to find a supportive land owner who has agreed to let me farm his land. I came to this process with my farm dream, and have received step-by-step support to make it a reality.”
The land-matching project screens owners of “underutilized land and farmers ready to start a business, and supports the parties in the development of legal contracts.”
The goal is to create seven to nine new farm operations in the region in 2018 with secure leasing agreements.
The Metro Vancouver land-matching project is supported through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a five-year framework that co-ordinates federal, provincial and territorial agricultural policy and programs. The five-year GF2 policy framework came into effect on April 1, 2013, and provides “a $3-billion federal, provincial and territorial government investment in innovation, competitiveness and market development,” according to Friday’s government release.
“We are excited to see investment at all three levels of government in this program and the future of new and young farmers in B.C.,” stated Sara Dent, Young Agrarians B.C. program manager.
“Fifty per cent of farmers in Canada under 35 lease land. The prohibitive cost of farmland in southern B.C. means that we have to facilitate solutions to land access if we want to see a future generation farming the land.”
with file from Amy Reid, Surrey Now-Leader