Agriculture in Langley

The Township of Langley is one of the richest agricultural areas in Canada and has a land mass of 316 square kilometres, with approximately 75% within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Nearly half of all farms in Metro Vancouver are in the Township (1,103 farms total), with annual gross farm receipts of $340 million in 2016. Total farm capital in 2015 in the Township was $2.9 billion, greater than any other municipality in Metro Vancouver. More land is available here for farming (not currently being farmed) than anywhere else in the Fraser Valley and the Township of Langley benefits from high quality soils, proximity to markets, and a mild climate. Agriculture and farmland not only provide economic benefits, but also contribute to the community’s identity and provide ecological services.

Cranberries

73% of Township parcels in the ALR are smaller than 4 hectares (10 acres), with only 14% larger than 8 hectares. In 2016, agricultural activity took place on 52% of the parcels within the Township’s ALR. Although the high number of small parcels poses a challenge in supporting agricultural ventures, it is also an opportunity to encourage intensive, sustainable, and small-scale operations not requiring a large land base, as well as direct farm market operations able to capitalize on Langley’s proximity to the Metro Vancouver market. The Township is host to multiple seasonal farmers markets and many Langley farmers sell their products in neighbouring communities as well.

Farms

Agriculture is supported by the community. In a survey reaching more than 1,400 Langley residents, farming was identified as either “very” or “somewhat” important by 95% of all urban respondents, and 96% of rural respondents. All of the urban respondents felt that local food production should be encouraged. Agri-tourism highlights farming businesses in the Township and the Circle Farm Tour offers a self-guided road map that directs people to a variety of specialty farm-gate vendors, open-air markets, eateries, heritage sites, fairs, and other special agricultural related events.

The Township is ranked third in the province based on annual farm gate receipts – farm receipts increased by 23% from $277 million in 2010 to $340 million in 2015. It has the potential to be the first in agricultural production in British Columbia by encouraging and facilitating greater utilization of its extensive farmland. Increased agricultural production will create economic development that improves the local economy and provides jobs and opportunities for local citizens. In 2016, 3,679 people were employed by farms in the Township and 2011 cash wages totaled $59.4 million. 

The Agricultural Profile was updated  based on data collected in 2016 by the Census of Agriculture and the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Land Use Inventory update. Key updates include:

  • Area in production decreased from 14,978 ha in 2011 to 10,870 ha in 2016
  • Annual cash wages in 2006 were $47 million and this increased to $59 million in 2011
  • The floor area of greenhouses increased by 5,400 square metres from 2011 to 2016
  • Hectares planted in blueberries increased by 145% from 2006 to 2016 
  • Grape production increased by 44 hectares (108 acres) and cranberry production increased by 83 hectares (205 acres) between 2006 and 2016
  • The number of mushroom farms declined from 17 to 16 between 2006 and 2016. However, the area for growing mushrooms has increased by almost 40% during the same period
  • Poultry production has increased significantly over the past 10 years, however all other livestock production has declined
  • The area irrigated has increased from 1,161 hectares (2,870 acres) in 2006 to 1,591 hectares (3,932 acres) in 2016

Greenhouses

Having more horses than anywhere else in the province, the Township of Langley is referred to as the Horse Capital of British Columbia. The proximity of breeding and training centres to local racing tracks, and an urban population, provides a good market base for the Township of Langley’s equine economy.

According to the 2016 Census of Agriculture, approximately 298 farms in the municipality contain a total of 2,553 horses and ponies, representing approximately 7% of the provincial total. Commercial breeding and training facilities, as well as recreational riding establishments, require an extensive array of equine suppliers and services. These include feed and tack shops, bedding suppliers, boarding stables, farriers, equine veterinarian practices and British Columbia's only neonatal horse hospital.

Horse Farm

Thunderbird Show Park holds five major hunter and jumper tournaments each year and hosts a variety of equestrian events and shows. Located near Fort Langley, the equestrian centre is approximately 34 hectares (85 acres) in size. Considering the horse industry is expected to grow and remain a generator of jobs and services to the Township of Langley’s economy, the Township has a Horse Industry Strategy  to address marketing for the industry, developing facilities and providing equine educational programs.

Many residents of Langley cite the Township’s rural character as a valued element of the community. Agricultural land is picturesque and provides amenities such as green space, natural vistas, and water storage. However, the ALR is also the primary location of a thriving agricultural industry that directly employs thousands of people and generates millions in receipts.

The Agricultural Land Commission Act and both the Township’s Rural Plan and AVS make it clear that farming and agricultural uses are supported in the rural areas.  If you live in a farming area, or are considering moving to or purchasing property within or next to the ALR, it is important to understand that special regulations apply within the ALR. Farmland is not static. Uses from hay production to greenhouses to poultry barns to aquaculture are permitted within the ALR.

Greenhouses

Where agriculture is a permitted use, “normal farm practices” are protected against nuisance complaints by the provincial Farm Practices Protection Act, otherwise known as the “right to farm.” Although farming areas are desirable places to live, with scenic and often peaceful environments, disruptive noises, smells, and activities will take place as a result of normal farm operations and should be expected.

Some activities you may encounter include:

  • Clearing of land
  • Burning
  • Composting
  • Ditches and drainage activities
  • Movement of farm vehicles
  • Irrigation
  • Lighting
  • Roaming livestock
  • Spraying of pesticides, nutrients, and fertilizers
  • Wildlife deterrents such as noisemakers

Blueberry Farm

The majority of farmers follow best practices when undertaking farming activities, however if poor farming practices are occurring, a process exists to resolve complaints with the Farm Industry Review Board.

Farm Cycling

When living near farming, care should be taken to prevent the spread of invasive weeds, damage to farm property and crops, and harassment of livestock by people and dogs. Activities such as dumping, littering, weeds, theft, vandalism, trespassing all impact farming operations negatively.

The Township of Langley has a complex ALR boundary, 220 km in length, with changing uses between adjacent parcels and incompatible uses between urban and rural neighbours. Edge planning for this boundary is supported by legislative tools contained in the Local Government Act, which ensure greater land use compatibility.

To learn more about living in farming areas, see the Agricultural Land Commission publication The Countryside and You .

Edge Planning Homes

The Township of Langley Council endorsed the Agricultural Viability Strategy (AVS) in July 2013. The AVS was prepared with the guidance and assistance of the Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC). (In 2015, Township Council changed the name of the AAC to the Agricultural Advisory and Economic Enhancement Committee, or AAEEC.) The vision of the AVS states:

"The Township of Langley supports agriculture while fostering and encouraging sustainable and viable production. Farmers are respected and appreciated for their contributions to the community and its citizens."

Several initiatives have already been completed or are currently underway:

Initiative

Actions

2.1.2 Require the AAEEC report regularly on agricultural activities and update, as appropriate, the Agricultural Profile

The AAEEC meets six to ten times each year to consider and provide advice to Township staff and Council regarding agricultural and economic development topics. The Agricultural Profile update is currently being completed and the Township allocated $10,000 to the update.

2.1.3 Request the AAEEC review the merits of a local farm organization At the January 2019 meeting of the AAEEC, a proposal from the Langley Environmental Partners Society to conduct a study on a local farm organization for Langley was supported by the AAEEC with funding of $8000 provided. The review is scheduled to be completed by January 2020.
2.1.8 Prepare and maintain an inventory of land available for rent or lease to active farmers At the February 2018 meeting of the AAEEC, Young Agrarians presented on the Lower Mainland Land Matching Program. The AAEEC recommended that the Township contribute $10,000 to support the program in Langley. In November 2018, Young Agrarians hosted a Land Linking Workshop in Langley to match landowners with potential farmers.
2.1.8 and 2.1.13 Provide seminars or workshops to encourage farming options and initiate seminars and workshops on topics for productive farm businesses on smaller land parcels and where topics such as succession planning may be presented In partnership with the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation, the Township contributed resources in the form of room rentals and light refreshments to three workshops on agriculture.
2.1.9 Continue work with the Propane Cannon Task Force The Audible Bird Scare Devices Farm Bylaw was adopted in June of 2013. The bylaw was developed with input from the public and the Propane Cannon Task Force, which was struck in 2012. Further work, such as updates to Horse Trail Maps and a joint workshop with the BC Blueberry Council was completed in 2014.
2.1.9 Inform, through use of the website the presence of normal farm practices The Township of Langley website was updated in 2019 to include a webpage on agriculture in Langley and a section on living near farming and the presence of normal farm practices.
2.1.14 Consider amenity bonuses for agriculture whenever reasonable and possible As part of a larger project to explore Community Amenity Contributions in the Township in 2017/18, amenity bonuses for agriculture were considered.
2.2.5 Consult stakeholder groups for the development of a food hub A Food Hub Feasibility Study was completed by Greenchain Consulting and Urban Food Strategies in 2015 that included engagement with stakeholders, research on best practices, and development of a feasible business model for a food hub in the Township. Stakeholder workshops, focus groups, and a networking event were held in 2015. The Township allocated $25,000 to the Food Hub Feasibility Study.
2.3.1 Implement an Agricultural Impact Assessment process In 2014, Upland Consulting was hired to develop a draft Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) framework for the Township of Langley. The Township allocated $25,000 to the development of the framework. In 2018, Council passed a resolution that the framework be presented to council for consideration for formal adoption. Part of the 2019 work plan of the AAEEC is to deliver to council a finalized AIA framework for consideration.
2.4.7 Undertake a pilot project to support the principles of the Ecological Services Initiative The Ecological Services Initiative is a 4-year pilot project conducted by the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation and Farmland Advantage. The Township contributed $120,000 to the project over the 4 years to support activities of invasive plant removal, on-farm projects, and riparian health surveys.

In addition to work done as part of the AVS, in March 2017, Council approved funding for the Township of Langley Food System Study undertaken by the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. KPU completed the Southwest British Columbia Bioregional Food Systems Design Project in 2016 and the same methods were used to assess the Township’s food system.

There were three components to the Township of Langley Food Systems Study:

1. Food Self-Reliance Study

2. Post Production Sector Case Study

3. Farm-to-Table Case Study:

The Food Self Reliance Study involved an analysis of the Township’s farmlands to identify under-utilized land and how being brought into production would influence food self-reliance under various scenarios. The study found that there is significant potential for the Township to increase the amount of food produced locally and total diet food self-reliance could reach as high as 74% of total diet by strategically growing foods that will be consumed by the local population.

The Post Production Sector Case Study included interviews with 18 post-production businesses and 12 producers with an aim to highlight opportunities and challenges facing agriculture in Langley post-production. Post-production means the preparation of raw agricultural products to products for human consumption and includes cold and dry storage, primary processing, and value-added processing.

The Farm-to-Table Case Study explored the local procurement of food within the restaurant sector through interviews with 55 restaurants and 20 farm operators. Local food is often high quality, fresh, and in-demand by restaurant patrons.

The Food System Study identified the key principles behind reaching high levels of food self-reliance as protecting agricultural land, and encouraging its use for food production. The study also highlights several crops and commodities as having a high potential to contribute to food self-reliance: poultry and eggs, dairy, vegetables (particularly garlic, Asian greens, and root vegetables), and organically grown fruit.