Monday, April 14, 2008



In days gone by Grafton Avenue ran through orchards and field of berries. Royalty in England ate jam from Errington on their scones and crumpets with afternoon tea. During the early part of the twentieth century Vancouver Island farms produced 85 percent of the food that was consumed locally.

Over time the petroleum industry has dominated the food industry by providing increased transportation networks as well as cheap chemical fertilizers. So then suppliers could ship produce around the world and monopolize on cheap labour forces in other regions. Limitations of weather dictated by the seasons could be overcome by ordering produce from thousands of kilometers away, even from the other side of the equator. Consumers began to depend upon these supplies and the low prices with little thought for the cost to the planet.

In other countries pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, genetic modification, can be used with little or no regard for standards or regulations in place where the consumer is buying the produce. People working the fields, preparing the food, and packaging it for transportation are faced with extremely low wages, dangerous work conditions, and long work weeks.

The Brazilian rainforest is being cut down and burned to make way for Soya beans, beef cattle, or corn to produce bio-diesel. The soil is so poor that it has to be abandoned after a year or two and the process is repeated. The lush jungle of the rainforest will take tens of thousands of years to grow back. The produce is then shipping around the globe to provide consumers with cheap food or fuel.

Located around lakes and rivers that can provide water for cultivation, low valley bottoms and estuary deltas have provided humanity with fertile soil to grow the majority of food needed for the growth of civilization. Populations grow with the abundance of food and increasingly demand more land to build houses and commercial structures. This balance between farmland and development has been going on for as long as civilizations have conquered the natural world.

Today some people in British Columbia, and in particular around Oceanside, want to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve in order to subdivide their land for housing development, building golf courses, and industry. Their claim is that the land is standing fallow so it should be put to use.

The fact is that the land can bring in more immediate cash today with a heightened real-estate market than if could in the short term as a hay field or low yielding farm. For the most part farming has become a losing proposition locally since it is extremely hard to complete with the global market controlled by multinational corporations.

On April 18, 1973 BC’s Land Commission Act came into effect. The Provincial government appointed a new Commission, to establish a special land use zone to protect agricultural land. The "Agricultural Land Reserve" was established in collaboration with local governments and protected 5% of BC, which was the most critical to the province’s food production. The ALR was very popular for many years because the public saw that development was slowed and farms were being protected.

Today Vancouver Island is almost completely dependant on the rest of the world for food. Try going to any grocery store locally and find an item that was produced on Vancouver Island. If you find one buy the item and tell your friends. A few local markets during the summer provide local farmers with the opportunity to sell their produces.

Cormie’s farm on the south side of Parksville has been growing and selling produce grown either on their own land or by mostly local farmers for over thirty years. There are other examples of local success including Little Qualicum Cheese Factory, Blueberry Fields Farm in Coombs, and the Coombs Country Market with a few local items including the goats on the roof.

Consumers are the only ones who can change this trend by demanding that local farmers be represented in local stores. Paying more for local produce makes sense when you factor in the costs to the plant.

Please let your Mayor and Council, MLA, and Regional Director know how you feel about allowing Agricultural Land to be developed locally.