Prime Lower Mainland Farmland Could be Sold for Industrial Development & Lost to Farming Forever
Productive farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate all over the world. Fortunately, in British Columbia for nearly 50 years successive provincial governments have supported the preservation of B.C.’s farmland though the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Before the ALR over 6,000 hectares of farmland were being lost every year to urbanization and non-farm uses in BC. This loss was slowed by the establishment of the ALR, which is now recognized as the most successful system for protecting scarce foodlands anywhere in the world.
But what if the ALR doesn’t apply to a piece of productive farmland in BC, meaning there would be nothing to prevent a landowner from shutting down the farm and building commercial or industrial buildings?
That’s exactly what’s happening to a 220-acre piece of productive farmland in the Lower Mainland. This farm – bounded by 192nd Street and 36th Avenue in Surrey - has been successfully producing potatoes, carrots, cabbages and squash for the past 50 years. In fact, this piece is at the core of field vegetable production in BC from May- early July. No other parcel produces so much of BC’s local field vegetable supply at this time of year.
However, this farmland is not protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. Why? Because it is owned by the federal government, which is not bound by the ALR unless it voluntarily agrees to include a piece of land in the ALR. The federal government has recently announced the entire 300-acre property (220 acres of farm and 80 acres of forests and streams) is “surplus to its requirements” and it may be sold. Even with a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars it could be bought by a developer and turned into industrial buildings. In anticipation of this, the land has already been ear-marked by the City of Surrey for industrial development.
A coalition of farmers, residents, farmland advocates, politicians and others are calling on:
(1) the federal government to keep all 300 acres of this property in agriculture, forests and streams, either by granting a long-term lease to a local farmer or by applying to the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission to include it in the ALR, and
(2) the City of Surrey to amend its Official Community Plan to prevent the land from conversion to any use other than farming.
Governments at all levels have been expressing concern about Canada’s threatened food security and claim to want Canadian consumers to obtain more of their food from local farmers. These governments have also been expressing concern about GHG emissions generated by the tens of thousands of trucks needed to transport foreign food to Canada. They are constantly reminding us of the vulnerability of foreign supply chains. Politicians in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Ottawa have all been saying we need to keep scarce local farmland for local farmers.
The property is owned by the federal government and managed by Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada (ISED). It was declared surplus to ISED’s program requirements in 2016. Public Services & Procurement Canada (PSPC) has been engaged to dispose of the property. PSPC is about to solicit Expressions of Interest from federal departments, Crown corporations, provinces, municipalities and Indigenous groups before offering the land for sale to the public.
A petition has been launched at change.org/savethefarmland calling on all levels of government to keep this unique parcel of agricultural land in farming forever.
The website www.beautifulbrookswood.com/history also has helpful background information on the situation.
- The 300-acre parcel consists of 220 acres in potatoes, carrots, cabbage and squash, and 80 acres in forests and streams.
- The farmland is exceptionally sandy, well-drained, enjoys its own unique microclimate. This allows for early crops production. Western Canada’s earliest potatoes, carrots and cabbage have been produced from the land for decades.
- From May to early July, 25-50% of BC’s local potatoes, carrots, cabbage come from this one parcel alone (depending on the crop and year).
- An estimated 30 and 50 million servings of fresh, nutritious vegetables are produced annually. Enough for one serving for every Metro Vancouverite for 2-3 weeks.
- Retailers, farmers markets, restaurants and foodbanks across the province depend on this produce. By July, the produce reaches all Western Canada.
- Due to its ability to produce crops so early, food from this parcel directly displaces foreign imports from the United States and Mexico.
- This parcel is at the core of BC’s food supply from May to early July. No other parcel produces so much of BC’s local field vegetable supply at this time of year.
Relevant Government Policies and recommendations
Preserving this parcel for agriculture, forests and streams would be complementary to several government commitments and policy recommendations including:
The City of Surrey’s “Declaration of Climate Emergency”.
Surrey’s “Biodiversity Conservation Strategy” that identifies this area as a key biodiversity HUB with links to “Green Infrastructure Network” corridors throughout Surrey and Langley.
The federal government’s initiative to implement urban parks across Canada.
The BC Government’s CleanBC “Roadmap to 2030”.
Metro Vancouver’s commitments to protect farmland and green space.
The BC Government’s Ministry of Agriculture & Food Service Plan.
The BC Government’s “Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC” program.
The Government of Canada’s commitment to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development goal of zero hunger and food security by 2030.
Agriculture Canada’s “Food Policy for Canada” which aims to make Canadian food the top choice at home and abroad.
Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions’ recommendation to reduce BC’s reliance on California produced food.
The recommendations to protect farmland by BC’s Food Security Task Force.