More farmers get access to affordable, available farmland in B.C.

MORE than 70 farmers from throughout British Columbia have found new opportunities in farming communities through the B.C. Land Matching Program (BCLMP).

Delivered by Young Agrarians, the BCLMP connects new, young and established farmers with landholders seeking to lease their properties to ensure their land stays in production or starts producing food. Since the pilot launch, the program has helped more than 70 farmers, with 1,883.8 hectares (4,655.0 acres) brought into or maintained in agricultural production and a total of 81 land matches. Businesses can be matched to more than one property and have been made on acreages of all sizes – from less than an acre to large plots of farmland.

“I’m so excited that we’re helping B.C. farmers find affordable and accessible farmland to put into production so we can have more fresh, local food in our communities,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, on Wednesday. “Whether they are new farmers, or established farmers who need more land, each farmer has their own unique criteria when looking for farmland. The services delivered by Young Agrarians are so valuable in bringing people together and making these matches that meet everyone’s needs.”

Stefan Butler and Lindsay Cornwell operate Nutrient Dense Farms, a market garden business in Squamish. After years of farming on multiple sites, they knew they needed one larger property in order to grow a business where they could put down roots. They found their new home base on a 9.7-hectare (24-acre) parcel of land in Squamish owned by Wolfgang and Renate Alkier, and were able to sign a 26-year lease.

On Vancouver Island, landholders Valorie Masuda and Alan Moore wanted to make their four-hectare (10-acre) property outside Duncan available for local food production. Megan Henwood and Callum Bottrell are young farmers with a vision of creating a mixed farm, producing vegetables, duck eggs and grains to supply their food truck operation. The BCLMP connected the two pairs and helped develop a lease agreement.

Land matchers provide personalized support services to new farmers and landholders to help them better understand regulations, evaluate opportunities, access resources and find a land match partner.

The BCLMP is part of Grow BC, a mandate commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture that supports young farmers and food producers seeking a career in agriculture and addresses major challenges for new farmers, such as gaining access to land. The program is also 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.

Darcy Smith, Program Manager, BCLMP, said: “Land access is essential to growing the next generation of farmers in British Columbia. Whether someone is starting their first farm business or expanding, the BCLMP provides the support farmers need to find suitable land and develop mutually beneficial agreements with farmland owners. We hear from the farmers and farmland owners we work with how much it helps to have a land matcher to guide them through the process. It’s going to take everyone to build a healthy future food system and Young Agrarians is thrilled to be a part of that journey.”

Sara Dent, Executive Director, Young Agrarians, noted: “Land matching programs are relatively new in Canada and support new farmers to find affordable land to start their businesses. We are very excited to be able to grow this type of program in British Columbia. We have made many matches to date. The larger impacts are the hundreds of landholders and new farmers reached annually who are now in a better position to provide or access land in the coming years.”

Stuart Oke, Youth President, National Farmers Union, added: “The B.C. Land Matching Program is playing a critical role in helping to address one of the most significant barriers facing new farmers today – access to land. As a worsening climate and rising land prices create further obstacles for farmers, it’s programs like this one that will help to address serious gaps in our food system and provide a clear path for young farmers, as well as help to ensure our food system into the future. It would be wonderful to see other provinces follow the example that British Columbia has set in supporting the next generation of farmers.”

Quick Facts:

* 90% of the matches arranged through the program are in regions with high real estate prices, including Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.

* The total number of matches (81) made in B.C.:
– Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley: 26

– Vancouver Island: 24

– Okanagan: 21

– Columbia Basin: 6

– Central and northern B.C.: 4

* The new businesses are farming a range of agricultural products, including mixed vegetables, sheep, goats, cattle, grain, hay, flowers, berries, eggs, tree fruits, buffalo dairy, honey, medicinal herbs and mushrooms.