Agricultural Viability Strategy

 

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).

Context

The Township of Langley has a land mass of 122 square miles, approximately 75% within the Agricultural Land Reserve. Half of all the farms in Metro Vancouver are in the Township. More land is available here for farming (not being currently farmed) than anywhere else in the Fraser Valley.

Seventy‐three percent of Township parcels in the ALR are smaller than 4 hectares (10 acres), with only 14% larger than 8 hectares. The number of smaller parcels is an opportunity to encourage intensive operations not requiring a large land base, as well as direct farm market operations able to capitalize on its proximity to the Metro Vancouver market. From 2005 to 2010, agricultural output grew by 21%, making the Township of Langley one of the fastest growing jurisdictions in the Fraser Valley.

Agriculture is supported by the community. In an AVS 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.

The Township is ranked third based on annual farm gate receipts. It has the potential to be the first in agricultural production in British Columbia by encouraging and facilitating greater utilization of its extensive farm land. Increased agricultural production will create economic development that improves the local economy, and provides jobs and opportunities for local citizens.

Purpose and Vision of the AVS

The AVS was prepared to assist the Township in achieving its agricultural potential. The vision of the AVS states:

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

Based on the vision, the strategy outlines four areas of emphasis:

1) providing a welcoming business environment for farming,
2) providing the required services and infrastructure,
3) providing a secure agricultural land base, and; 
4) ensuring farmer use of best farm management practices.

Strategy Process

Agricultural Viability Strategy Stages

The AVS has been prepared in three phases, as follows:

Phase 1 (AVS1)

Agricultural Viability Strategy GreenhouseAn Agricultural Profile was completed in 2010. The profile provides a snap-shot of the industry and initial analysis of major trends affecting farming. Some of the highlights include:

  • Agriculture in Langley is characterized by a diversity of crops and livestock operations. It is a $277- million industry.
  • Area in production: 12,970 hectares (32,048 acres)
  • Annual cash wages paid: $47,673,547
  • Total paid labour: 89,527 weeks, or 1,791 full-time equivalent jobs
  • Non-soil based agricultural uses (such as greenhouse operations and mushroom farms) contributed significantly to revenue generation. It is anticipated that total revenue from non-soil based agriculture will continue to increase as healthy profit margin attracts additional investment in the future.
  • The soils in Langley are highly suitable for agriculture. With improved irrigation or drainage, 75% of all ALR lands would be capable of achieving a Class 1 to 3 type soils, which are considered the top classes for agricultural capability.
  • Langley farms produce a significant portion of the local food supply in Metro Vancouver.

Phase 2 (AVS2)

AVS2 focused on gathering community input on a wide range of issues, challenges, and opportunities facing agriculture. There were two main components: the AVS survey and focus group meetings.

Agricultural Viability Strategy VegetablesAVS Survey: Approximately 1,470 Langley residents were randomly selected to participate in a telephone survey conducted between February 18 and March 18, 2011.

Of the total telephone interviews completed, 421 were with urban residents, and 1,049 with rural residents. The samples represented a 28.6% urban and 71.4% rural split.

Main findings of the survey:

  • Farming is important in Langley.
  • Langley residents value local food production.
  • Full-time farmers are the minority in the community.
  • Most farmers own their land, but most of it is not actively used as farmland.
  • Properties are not large enough to support a viable farm.
  • Farmers are concerned about water-related issues.
  • Farmers feel that they need a stronger voice.
  • There was good support for an Agricultural Viability Strategy.

Focus Group Meetings: Four Focus Group Meetings were held in April 2011 to provide “face-to-face” opportunities for residents, active farmers, and industry stakeholders to explore key issues identified in the telephone survey.

1. The first Focus Group meeting was held primarily for livestock farmers or “producers” such as dairy farmers, poultry farmers, and equestrian centre operators.

Farmer's Market
Strawberries
Family Farm

2. The second focus meeting was held primarily for horticulture farmers or “growers,” such as operators of nurseries, greenhouses, wineries, and mushroom farms.

3. The third focus meeting was held primarily for representatives from agricultural associations, and government agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Land Commission, Metro Vancouver Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee, BC Dairy Foundation, BC Poultry Producers, BC Hothouse and Greenhouse Growers Association, Langley 4-H, Langley Horse Federation, and Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation.

4. The last meeting was open to the general public, including urban residents, non-farmers in the rural areas, and active farmers who were not able to attend the other meetings.

The discussions were structured based on the three aspects of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic. Participants were asked to identify the most important issues that the AVS must address. The main issues are listed as follows:

Social

  1. Demographic change, succession planning, and labour shortage
  2. New consumer trends and consumer education
  3. Agricultural-urban interface conflicts
  4. Land use
  5. Governance and regulation

Environmental

  1. Water
  2. Waste management
  3. Chemical use and pollution
  4. Wildlife habitat
  5. Municipal support for sustainable farming and stewardship

Economic

  1. High land prices
  2. High cost of farming
  3. Collective branding and marketing
  4. Infrastructure

Sheep on field

Phase 3 (AVS3)

AVS3 focused on preparing a strategy based on research and consultation in the previous phases. The process of developing the strategy included a tour of rural Langley, a visioning workshop, and meetings with the AVS Task Force and staff to discuss key issues and review various drafts.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee presented a draft strategy to Council in March 2013. An Open House was held in April 2013 to obtain feedback on the draft strategy from stakeholders. Council endorsed the final draft of the AVS in July 2013.

Strategy Implementation

The AVS is designed to be fully implemented over a period of approximately 20 years, with prioritized actions for the short term (the first five years), medium term (six to 10 years), and long term (11 to 20 years).

Many of the actions require few resources and can be implemented quickly. Early implementation of certain actions can help build a positive attitude for increased agricultural development that will create momentum, and further public support for other actions that may require more resources and time.

The AAC is playing a key role in implementation of the strategy by providing co-ordination and leadership to the process.

Funding for Implementation

The total funding for implementing the AVS is $2.7 million over 20 years, or up to $135,000 per year. It represents a relatively small investment for an industry that currently produces more than $277 million annually (the total investment of $2.7 million over 20 years is less than 1% of the current one-year value of the industry). The funding has been incorporated into the Annual Budget.

Acknowledgements

The Agricultural Viability Strategy was partially funded by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. through programs it delivers on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

Disclaimer: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF), are pleased to participate in the production of the Township of Langley Agricultural Viability Strategy. We are committed to working with our industry partners to address issues of importance to the agriculture and agri-food industry in British Columbia. Opinions expressed in this report are those of the Township of Langley, HB Lenarc. TNS Canadian Facts and Golder Associates, and not necessarily those of IAF, BCMAL or AAFC.