New and young farmers throughout B.C. are seeing results and getting agricultural land into production, thanks to the support of regional land matchers and the B.C. Land Matching Program, delivered by Young Agrarians.
“The challenge for young and new farmers entering the agricultural industry is acquiring affordable farmland that they can farm,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “Since expanding the B.C. Land Matching Program last summer, we’ve seen successful matches throughout the province, ensuring more B.C. farmland is in production and helping secure our farming industry and food security for future generations.”
After launching as a pilot in Metro Vancouver in 2016, the program expanded across southern B.C. in July 2018. Since 2018, the B.C. Land Matching Program has helped 19 new farmers and farming families connect with landowners in the province to sign farming agreements, with a total of 26.71 hectares (66 acres) brought into, or maintained in, agricultural production. The Province has committed $375,000 in funding to build on the success of the program for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Land matchers assigned to Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan and Columbia Basin have been working closely with farmers, landowners, local governments and agricultural organizations to help facilitate agreements between farmers and land owners.
Tucked away between orchards and wineries overlooking Powers Creek in West Kelowna, Popham visited Alpine Roots Farm to meet with farmer Eoin Carey and landowners John and Anne Whittall, as well as their land matcher Tessa Wetherill, for a tour of their property. She announced the results of the B.C. Land Matching Program there, as well as additional funding for the program for 2019-20.
The land owners and the farmer signed their lease this past January, and Carey and his family have already started to till the land for what will be a 0.80-hectare (two-acre) market garden, selling to community-supported agriculture members. They also plan to partner with local restaurants throughout Kelowna and the region and are excited to offer chefs the option of having grow-to-order unique, or hard-to-find, varieties of produce.
For the Whittalls, both retired, this was an opportunity to see the agricultural land they own and steward in full production, while allowing them to keep the land’s farm-classification status, which will support them as they age in place on a fixed income.
The B.C. Land Matching Program falls within Grow BC, a mandate commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture that supports young farmers and food producers seeking 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 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.
Eoin Carey, farmer, Alpine Roots Farm —
“I had been looking for suitable land on and off for a few years. I found it next to impossible to find anything. The main issue was overpriced lease values and a complete shortage of anything being advertised on the classified ads or local agriculture publications. I believe overall the B.C. Land Matching Program has accelerated my business development by at least a year, maybe more. I found answers to all my questions and more when I got involved with Young Agrarians. I really hadn't expected the level of help I received and am forever grateful for it.”
John and Anne Whittall, landowners —
“Our smaller acreage is well suited for farming, but we are no longer active in that. Young Agrarians seemed like a wonderful way to see the land used productively, helping us regain our farm status and give an opportunity to a younger, aspiring farmer. Making a ‘match’ went very smoothly. We are confident that it is an excellent one and now we are excited for the growing season to begin.”
Tessa Wetherill, Okanagan Young Agrarian land matcher —
“I've been honoured to facilitate negotiations and open discussions that have led to successful land matches. It’s an incredible thing to witness people coming together, being honest about their needs, values, roles and responsibilities. It is ultimately this foundation, along with a spirit of collaboration, that carry these folks forward into mutually beneficial, long-term relationships.”
- Since the pilot launch in 2016, the program has helped 29 farmers and farming families, with 40.47 hectares (100 acres) brought into or maintained in agricultural production.
- Since the program expanded in July 2018, 19 matches have been finalized, with 19 farm businesses supported, representing 22 agreements on 21 properties.
- Number of land matches by region:
- Okanagan: four matches finalized;
- Vancouver Island: six matches finalized;
- Columbia Basin: one match finalized; and
- Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley: eight matches finalized, supporting eight new farm businesses with 11 agreements on 10 properties.
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/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
A backgrounder follows.