Back to the land

Farmer in the Southern Interior working with my wife and son to build a business growing and selling food

To the Editor:

Re: To the leaders of my province

I am a 34-year-old farmer in the Southern Interior working with my wife and son to build a business growing and selling food.

We do not have the finances to own farmland, so we operate entirely on leased parcels. Because large agribusiness and government subsidies to the industrial food system keep food prices incredibly low, it is very difficult to compete in the market.

We small, local farmers distinguish ourselves by offering much higher quality produce—vegetables and various meats in my case—with more nutrients, more flavour, more humane livestock management, better soil management, quicker turnaround, happier employees and so on. We also add vibrancy and resilience to our local economy.

Perhaps what many fail to realize is that our farm—and the many other young farms just now sprouting all over the countryside—are the foundation of our future economy, the one we’ll need once we’re left with toothpicks for forests, and gaping holes in the ground.

With all the mills shutting down, the best solution on the table is a couple thousand measly, temporary jobs to build a pipeline that carries a grave risk to water and land? Very, very silly.

Our local food economy guarantees to bring long-term prosperity by not only keeping us fed, but by keeping currency in local circulation. Everyone needs to eat, and right now more than 95 per cent of the $25 billion B.C. consumers spend annually on food leaves the province. We’re bleeding money.

And there’s no need to bleed. I can grow almost everything we need, right here, right now. We can keep at least $10 billion in B.C. very fast if the government conspired with us instead of against us. Imagine the impacts …

Look at my customers: almost all of them are professionals, many working out of province or out of country, bringing money to my small town in the Kootenays. It’s my job, and the job of other local business people, to keep that money going round and round right here in B.C.

Your ALR proposal is a disaster waiting to happen.

My farm depends on the well-to-do folks who have bought farmland for an estate but with no plans (or knowledge) for how to use it. Not being able to develop on it ensures that they are willing to cooperate with farmers such as myself.

Of course they would like to develop it. They would make more money. If you allow them building and subdivision rights, will they be willing to cooperate with me and the legion of up-and-coming young farmers who I collaborate with and mentor every day?

No. And farmers like me all over the province will lose any chance we ever had of owning a farm, because farmland will not only crumble into postage stamps, but prices will skyrocket.

Your Bill 24 is not a long-term proposition. Even the faintest notion of a possibility of development—like Bill 24 threatens with its two-tier approach to the ALR—directly impacts my ability to lease land, grow amazing food, and sell it for reasonable prices despite heavy competition from a global market.

My farm also depends on being able to secure farm status for these same wealthy landowners. It’s my way of compensating them for the use of their land (by lowering their taxes) without having to incur an expense that cuts into my already slim margins.

Between the ALR and farm status assessments, that is about ALL the government has ever done for me and others who, despite the challenges, continue to work hard to ensure food security, local employment, and a strengthened local economy.

The reality is that the B.C. and federal governments make my life harder, loading small producers with unreasonable restrictions and bureaucracy, and we get nothing comparable to the hefty handouts and tax breaks large industrial farmers receive.

The ALR and farm status being all the government has ever done for us, now you’d like to start eroding that too?

Shame on you. You risk the future of all our children for your political gain and the financial greed of the minority you serve in the name of “democracy.” Shame on you.

You claim to speak for the “everyday Canadian.” Not the ones I speak with, and I speak with more than you do. Or at least I actually LISTEN. I can guarantee that. My job depends on widespread networking with regular folks. This hardly seems to be required for political leadership. No, my so-called leaders, you clearly listen to and speak on behalf of a moneyed elite. Prove to me otherwise and scrap this bill.

 

Andrew Bennett, Moon Gravity Farm, Rossland

 

 

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