The Regional District of North Okanagan has unveiled a five-year development plan for the BX Ranchlands that prioritizes small-scale agriculture, community education and environmental sustainability.
“To me it is an opportunity for local producers to participate in innovative farming education within the Interior of BC, as well as an opportunity for young farmers who often have difficulty securing farmland due to the price, a place to experiment with incubator farms,” says RDNO vice-chair and director of BX/Silverstar Amanda Shatzko. “It is a prime location between schools for youth to explore the local trails and get their hands dirty in community gardens.”
The regional district developed the plan over the past year in partnership Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems and the Land to Table Network of the North Okanagan (L2T) and local stakeholders.
The site encompasses 167 acres east of Vernon. The draft plan allocates 90 acres to farmland leases, 24 acres to habitat protection, 12 acres to a research and teaching farm, five acres to a community farm, two acres to a pollinator meadow, one acre to a community garden and 0.5 acre to a food forest.
The farmland leases will help provide farmers with reliable access to land, which will support local agriculture and strengthen regional food systems, the plan says. The plan also enables users to experiment “with climate-resistant crops so that we can help with future food sustainability and lowering greenhouse gases,” Shatzko adds.
A public consultation is now underway to allow the public to offer their feedback on the draft plan. The responses will underpin recommendations presented to Shatzko and fellow director Bob Fleming, who represents Area B, for final approval.
RDNO purchased the property in 2016. It initially created a recreational trail along the perimeter of the property. It then considered subdividing and selling the remaining land. But in 2021, after concerns of land protection and future use, RDNO electoral areas B and C took over sole ownership of the BX Ranchlands to keep the site available for the public.