Farms are a vital part of Vancouver Island. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Farming degraded municipal land is a community win-win

Almost all municipalities own chunks that could be converted for such a purpose

An idea was recently brought to North Cowichan council that deserves more attention, and not just from that municipality.

In November a representative from Regenerative Land Stewards proposed that the municipality could allow the group to access clear-cut or other degraded lands belonging to North Cowichan that are not being used. In exchange, they’d set up sustainable agriculture operations, nurturing things such as vegetables, teas and animals.

Those working the land could even be housed affordably on it, according to the proposal.

This seems like a win-win sort of proposition.

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The kind of lands the group would like to access, such as old school or homestead properties, are often filled with invasive species and illegal garbage dumps. They are, as of now, just sitting there.

With the announcement this month that Cowichan Green Community will receive $750,000 towards establishing a food hub in Duncan, which will include shared access to food and beverage processing facilities, one can easily see where there could be some great tie-ins established for everyone’s benefit.

And North Cowichan isn’t the only jurisdiction that has land sitting unused. Almost all Vancouver Island municipalities own chunks that could be converted for such a purpose.

Agriculture is an important piece of our economic and social puzzle. Our farms, from wineries to dairy, small to large, are a key part of the fabric of our lives, and along with our artisan producers and restaurants have made Vancouver Island a foodie haven of much note.

But one of, if not the biggest hurdle for those who want to take up agriculture of any kind is the massive cost of land. Our real estate is highly desirable and the price tags reflect that. Unfortunately, this has worked to stymie interested young farmers.

We are always encouraging of initiatives to have us produce more of our own food. We firmly support the concept of the Agricultural Land Reserve and what it’s done and continues to do to preserve our farmland as much as it has from the brutal pressures of development.

But never has it been more evident, as we watch vaccine nationalism take hold as countries with facilities to produce COVID-19 shots move to keep doses within their own borders, that it is hugely important to be self-sustaining in critical areas. There’s no more critical area than food.

So even if this particular proposal doesn’t end up going anywhere, the idea of using degraded municipal properties as a way for farmers to gain access to land to work is well worth further exploration.

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