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Ag Refresh: Comments by Councillor Sandy Blue


The work of AgRefresh is something we will look back on as a defining moment in our history. This comprehensive body of work has the potential to significantly increase viability and yield on farms across Abbotsford – to feed our growing population and fuel our economy.

AgRefresh will address a number of issues people are concerned about including truck parking and other contentious non-farm uses on agricultural land.

As AgRefresh moves on to the next phase, I would encourage staff to explore not only  the land use aspects of agriculture but also potential solutions that will result in transforming fallow or underutilized land into active production.

The 2008 Chamber of Commerce ‘Economic Impact of Agriculture in Canada’ called Abbotsford ‘the Agricultural Capital of Canada’ – today, almost 10 years later we continue to top the nation in farm gate sales, and boast at least one in five jobs here are created by agriculture.

There is more that can be done – Abbotsford can lead the way with an approach that proactively supports and encourages agriculture, removes obstacles and provides much-needed expertise and funding to really shift the economy.

Here is a potential idea to build on:

A big issue on people’s minds is that of affordability of agricultural land: The issue is not unique to Abbotsford. We feel it for sure – but it is an issue across the Fraser Valley and beyond.

Imagine if an outcome of AgRefresh is a rethinking of the qualifying criteria for an Ag Enhancement Grant. What if this fund was available to address the specific issues identified as obstacles – and help connect landowners with would-be farmers through a systematic approach:

  • For students/ future farmers: scholarships at UFV or KPU in Agriculture or Food Systems
  • For would be farmers: start assistance in the form of grants and or / loans to be paid back on an sliding scale & forgiven after 5 years of active farming
  • For the landowner: access to capital to fund dyking, drainage or irrigation to specifically address issues on a piece of land so that it can be actively farmed; and encouragement to partner with those who want to farm

As well, the fund could include assistance from professionals in preparing a comprehensive business plan to help ensure they have a viable plan to succeed.

If we do it right, I believe we can change the economics of Agriculture in BC, creating a model that is the envy of the world.

Let’s ask the Elevate Abbotsford alumnus for their ideas to reimagine HOW we can transform our agricultural lands to their highest and best output; and use innovation to spark a new generation of farmers.

We are well on our way with so many innovative initiatives and opportunities already here in Abbotsford and across the region. Abbotsford is already well known as a leader in Ag Innovation with companies including – BW Global, Nutriva Group / Vitala Foods, Vitalus Group, Vertical Farming and many others. Let’s do everything we can to engage with and advocate for this sector.

Let’s leverage this expertise to further engage agricultural industry sector partners and the farmers – those who will actually make it all happen.

Here in the Fraser Valley we are so fortunate to have the University of the Fraser Valley and its Agriculture Centre of Excellence (ACE).  As you may know – the centre functions as the Secretariat of the B.C. Agriculture and Seafood Research, Education and Extension Network, which is comprised of representatives from BC’s post-secondary institutions, industry and government that work together to build a sustainable food secure future through agricultural research, innovation and education.

Over the last five years I have had the opportunity to apply my passion for Agriculture as I served as an advisor on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University – Institute for Sustainable Food Systems advisory. This innovative project included Orlando Schmidt from the Ministry of Agriculture here in Abbotsford and stakeholders from across the Southwest BC region.  Their research is now complete, and the executive summary and full report are available online.

The KPU Institute for Sustainable Food Systems investigates and supports regional food systems as key elements of sustainable communities; focusing on the potential of regional food systems in terms of agriculture and food, economics, community health, policy, and environmental integrity. KPU created a comprehensive model that provides information and support for farmers, communities, business, policy makers, and others.

I’d love to see Abbotsford take advantage of this valuable resource as part of AgRefresh as it would provide a rich data set for informed decisions about the impact of land use decisions in our city.

Our staff and the industry professionals working with them on AgRefresh have done an exceptional job; and I am excited to see what the next phase brings.

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