It may seem like a complicated matter of commissions, legislation and zoning but simply put, “if you eat, you should attend,” said one person who’s concerned about the future of the Agriculture Land Reserve.
Locals are organizing a town hall meeting and rally with hopes of generating support for the future of farmland, as talks about the future of the ALR are grim. Last fall, reports outlined government threats to the ALR and the Commission.
Abra Brynne, a Nelson food activist said any changes to such an important piece of protective legislation would be against a long-term vision that had public good in mind. Pressure to use farmland for purposes other than growing food are harder to resist without a mandate that keeps “higher goals in mind.”
“Economic and political pressures will keep diminishing it and it’s finite so every little bit lost, it’s really hard to return it,” she said.
When it comes to food security, BC already has a “startlingly small” land base suitable for agriculture with which it can work, explained Brynne.
“It’s only five per cent of our land base,” she said. “As much as we’ve entered this global supply chain, I think everyone is recognizing those chains are very vulnerable… When we don’t safeguard what little land base we have here for agriculture, I think we’re seriously compromising not only this generation’s food security but that of the future.”
Upon instruction by Premier Christy Clark, Minister Bill Bennett is leading a core review to find savings and he has said that some “sacrosanct things” are on the table. His recommendations will be submitted to cabinet by the end of March.
Brynne grew up on an Okanagan farm during the time the ALR was enacted; she co-chairs BC Food Systems Network and is also current president of the Kootenay Coop board. Brynne is worried this review is happening without due process and public consultation.
The Nelson rally is being held at the Nelson United Church from 7 to 9 p.m. on February 7. During the first hour Brynne will moderate a panel — including Thomas Loo, who worked as an enforcement officer for the ALC, Nadine Ben-Rabha with Kootenay Meadows organic farm and former Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans — who will share information on the complex matter with attendees.
Last fall, Evans shared his thoughts on the ALR, which marks its 40th birthday this month (February). The once Minister of Agriculture says British Columbians owe a debt of gratitude to those who saw fit to protect disappearing agricultural land saying they had “guts” and “foresight.”
“Although the Land Reserve may have been visionary and, therefore, hard for some people to accept way back in 1973, I think its time may have finally come,” wrote Evans in a piece he shared online. “Everywhere I go people are beginning to talk about food and the quality of food and where it comes from and how it is produced.”
He is concerned that the days of the family farm are numbered if the ALR isn’t valued over development.
“Let’s choose to speak,” he wrote. “Loud and from everywhere, with no urban/rural difference, in support of the Agricultural Land Reserve and in support of the producers who work that land.”
For more information on the event, contact Abra Brynne at 250-352-5342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Nelson city councillor Candace Batycki’s take on the matter read her recent column.