The recent announcement of $375,000 in new funding to support the land matching program coordinated by Young Agrarians and extend it to central and northern BC was further endorsement of the program, which has been praised in several quarters.
Originally launched in Metro Vancouver in 2016, the program now operates province-wide. It has matched 29 farmers with 100 acres of land since inception. During the past year, 19 farmers were matched 66 acres.
Eoin Carey, the owner of Alpine Roots Farm in West Kelowna, says he faced several challenges in his efforts to establish his farm. It wasn’t until he participated in the land-matching program that he began overcoming them.
“I’d been looking for suitable land for several years but met with road blocks all along the way,” he says. “Many landowners that I approached assumed I would establish a high-value orchard or vineyard that would add value to their property in the long term, but I wanted to do something simpler.”
The work of Young Agrarians to match new farmers with existing properties provided the opportunities he was looking for, with landowners sympathetic to his vision.
“I found answers to my questions and had access to lease and financial experts, lawyers and business planners, and I was introduced to a whole new pool of landowners I didn’t know were out there,” he says.
Carey finally partnered with Anne and John Whittall of West Kelowna.
“Our land is increasingly becoming idle, but we also see farms and orchards in West Kelowna that have stopped producing,” says Anne.
The Whittall’s nine-acre property was formerly a herb farm but they kept horses.
Carey is leasing two acres from the Whittalls and is planting a market garden that will sell produce to consumers who have signed on for a weekly box as well as to local restaurants. The initial lease is for one year, with an option to renew for three years this fall. [Young Agrarians photo]