New and young farmers in the Okanagan are receiving support and services from a dedicated land matcher, as part of the new B.C. Land Matching Program that connects farmers looking for land with landowners wanting to lease their land for farming.
“One of the biggest challenges new and young farmers are facing in the province is accessing land,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “This program helps young people enter into the farming industry, which not only benefits retiring farmers, but also all British Columbians by increasing food security and access to locally grown foods. Let’s get farmers onto the land and let’s get farming!”
Land matchers offer support and services ranging from hosting land-linking events to developing relationships with landowners, land seekers and community leaders, to facilitating negotiations and terms of leasing arrangements, with the support of a lawyer, between landowners and land leasers.
“We are really excited to see the growing interest in programs that offer hands-on support for land access in B.C.” said Sara Dent, Young Agrarians BC’s program director. “New and young farmers need good, long-term land opportunities. Please reach out to us if you have farmland for lease.”
The price of land in some parts of the province is making farming unattainable for many families, especially where some of the highest-quality agricultural soil is found. Many established farmers aging out of the industry are trying to develop succession plans to ensure their land is kept in production. As well, farmland owners who are not farming themselves are often motivated to support local food systems and provide an opportunity to a young farmer entrepreneur by leasing out their land.
Tessa Wetherill is the dedicated land matcher assigned to the Okanagan region. With 11 years of farming experience and a love for all things that grow, she is looking forward to building relationships with like-minded people who share the same passion for agriculture and collaborating to form strong, diverse human ecosystems.
There are also dedicated land matchers for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Columbia Basin.
The B.C. Land Matching Program aims to create opportunities for new farmers by supporting affordability in farmland and encouraging farming production while increasing access to locally grown foods for all British Columbians.
The B.C. Land Matching Program is delivered by Young Agrarians, a program of FarmFolk CityFolk Society, with a $300,000 investment from the Government of B.C., and also draws support from municipal and regional partners such as the Columbia Basin Trust, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Metro Vancouver, Township of Langley, City of Surrey and the Bullitt Foundation, with in-kind support provided by Cowichan Green Community.
Grow BC is a mandate commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture that supports young farmers and food producers who are looking for a career in B.C. agriculture and addresses major challenges for new farmers such as gaining access to land in regions around the province.
The B.C. Land Matching Program is part of the Province’s larger New Entrant Strategy, a framework for increasing the number of new and young farmers working in B.C.’s agriculture sector.
- In 2016, the average farmer was 55 years of age, while farmers under the age of 35 represented 9.1% of total farmers, up slightly from 8.2% in 2011.
- 66% of farmers plan to retire in the next 10 years, but only one in 12 farm operators in Canada have succession plans.
- Even though family farmers continue to get older, only one in 12 operators reported having a formal succession plan laying out how the operation will be transferred to the next generation of farmers. Corporations (mostly family corporations) are more likely to have succession plans (16.3%) than sole proprietorships (4.9%).
Find out more about the B.C. Land Matching Program: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/programs/land-matching
Young Agrarians B.C. Land Matching Program: http://youngagrarians.org/tools/land/
Government of B.C.’s New Entrant Strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/farm-management/farm-business-management/6322_agri_newentrantstrategy_web.pdf