Jordan Dirom can’t wait to begin work on a 22-acre farm he will soon be leasing near Duncan’s Old Farm Market.
Dirom, who is originally from Port Hardy but has lived in the Cowichan Valley since he was 14, has worked several full-time jobs in the area, but it has always been a dream of his to work the land on his own farm.
He said that passion welled up inside him when he was studying civil engineering with its emphasis on sustainability, and he saw the connection to food sustainability.
But Dirom said it’s very expensive to buy a farm, which typically calls for a lot of land, and that has been a disincentive for him to follow his dreams for years.
“Even buying a small farm of just about two acres would not produce enough profit to cover the mortgage these days, so I would still have to work elsewhere full time just to pay the bills,” he said.
In fact, the value of farmland on Vancouver Island leaped an astounding 21.7 per cent in 2018, the highest regional increase in Canada, according to Farm Credit Canada’s 2018 Farmland Values Report.
Then, almost two years ago, Dirom came into contact with the Young Agrarian organization.
With the future of farming hanging in the balance due to the high cost of real estate, the Young Agrarians began work in 2018 to ensure new farmers have access to land.
One of the focuses of the organization is to facilitate long-term lease agreements between landowners and new farmers ready to start farms through its B.C. Land-Matching Program.
The Young Agrarians work to pair up the right pieces of land with the right people, and also offers programs to teach people how to farm.
About 74 per cent of existing farmers in B.C. say they will sell their farms within the next decade as they retire, and there’s a lot of complexities to new farmers trying to take over the land.
For farmland owners, the benefits of leasing out land to farmers may include tax incentives, scaling back on their own workload, new relationships, and, of course, farm-fresh products.
Meanwhile, many seasoned farmers are seeking to transition their land and farm to the next generation, and leasing land to a new farmer can be a step in that direction.
Since the BC Land Matching Program was launched on Vancouver Island in Aug., 2018, a total of 15 matches have been made across the region, with eight in the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Those eight farms in the CVRD account for 55 acres of farmland.
Dirom said he will begin leasing his farm once the owner, who has decided to move on from farming, vacates the property later this fall.
“I’ve got a very favourable lease, and it’s even cheaper than what I would have had with a mortgage on just one or two acres,” he said.
“It was a perfect opportunity and I also purchased some large-scale equipment, like a green house and an irrigation system, from the owner.”
Dirom said his main intent is to grow and market vegetables, and he’s interested in getting other people involved in the farm by selling them shares in his crops.
Dirom said that anyone else interested in having their own farm should contact the Young Agrarians and check out its land-matching program.
“I’ve been working with the Young Agrarians for some time to find the right place,” he said.
“I’d never discourage anyone from working hard to save money to purchase their own farm, but the ability to lease opens it up to a lot more people.”
The Young Agrarians will host a Land-Linking Workshop at Cowichan Station from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 1 at The HUB at Cowichan Station, 2375 Koksilah Rd. The event is free, but donations to support 2018 programming are welcome.
Farmers interested in leasing out their land, and those interested in getting a lease, will have the opportunity at the workshop to network, talk leases, and learn about the land access services offered by the B.C. Land Matching Program, which is funded on Vancouver Island by the province, with support from the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. Landowners.
“Land-linking workshops are an avenue for farmers and farmland owners to meet their regional land matchers and access important resources and information about land agreements,” said Darcy Smith, program manager for the land-matching program.
“Our goal is to create an opportunity for people to network, and sign up new participants to receive on-going support through the B.C. Land Matching Program. The new farms created as a result of matches through the BCLMP provide an excellent opportunity to increase local food production and economic development while supporting new farmers.”
For more information and to register, visit youngagrarians.org/landlinkcowichan2019, or call Vancouver Island land matcher, Azja, at 250-413-7560.