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All together, now

January is a time of new beginnings and fresh resolve. We make resolutions and hope to do better. We reflect on what happened last year and set goals for the year ahead.

Anyone who’s travelled across Canada knows that BC stands out as particularly different, and demands special resolve to negotiate not only the landscape but the pressures that come from being jammed up against mountains, sea and – in a word – people. City dwellers often idealize rural areas as community-focused but if you’re on the wrong side of the community, watch out.

The rural-urban interface is one of the perennial issues farmers and their residential neighbours face, especially in BC. It’s not just where warehouses meet berry fields in the Lower Mainland, it’s where retirees settle on Vancouver Island and in the Interior. Being able to farm – profitably – amid diverse activities is what BC farmers do year in and year out.

It’s therefore heartening to read Business Council of BC chief economist Ken Peacock’s recent report on the province’s farm sector. While senior levels of government champion the role of exports in growing BC’s farm economy, Peacock reminds us that the food we export has local benefits, too.

“While expanding and deepening the export base is essential to ensuring BC’s future prosperity, it is also important to recognize that the local population benefits immensely from having a rich and diverse domestic agriculture sector,” he writes. “Much of the province’s agri-food industry is comprised of smaller, niche producers, often cultivating higher-value products used in the domestic food services sector. This product diversity coupled with growing success in export markets is the foundation of the sector’s strength and resiliency.”

The interdependence of urban and rural activities defines BC as much as the competition between these activities for land, people and other resources. BC’s small but growing urban farm sector, the revival of hop and grain farms to serve urban food artisans, and the relocation of large-scale farms to tracts of land in the Interior that simply aren’t available elsewhere reflect the dynamism and versatility of BC farms.

Whether we’re managing urban development or rural nutrients, we’ve all got a role to play in the province. This year, let’s find a way to make our roles work for everyone.

Vol.103 Issue 1

Bright Greens