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 assists 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:

  • Providing a welcoming business environment for farming
  • Providing the required services and infrastructure
  • Providing a secure agricultural land base
  • Ensuring farmer use of best farm management practices

Strategy Development Process

The AVS was developed in three phases. Phase 1 involved data gathering and best practice research. Phase 2 focused on community and industry consultation. Policy analysis and strategy development took place in Phase 3.

An Agricultural Profile  was completed in 2010. The profile provides a snap-shot of the industry and initial analysis of major trends affecting farming using data collected through the Census of Agriculture and Agricultural Land Use Inventory. Some of the highlights include:

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.

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

  • Farm receipts increased by 23% from $277 million in 2010 to $340 million in 2015
  • 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

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.

AVS Survey: Langley residents were randomly selected to participate in a statistically-valid 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 telephone 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.
  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
  • Demographic change, succession planning, and labour shortage
  • New consumer trends and consumer education
  • Agricultural-urban interface conflicts
  • Land use
  • Governance and regulation
  • Environmental
  • Water
  • Waste management
  • Chemical use and pollution
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Municipal support for sustainable farming and stewardship
  • Economic
  • High land prices
  • High cost of farming
  • Collective branding and marketing
  • Infrastructure

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 (AAC) 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. (In 2015, Township Council changed the name of the AAC to the Agricultural Advisory and Economic Enhancement Committee, or AAEEC.)

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 5 years), medium term (6 to 10 years), and long term (11 to 20 years).

Many of the actions require few resources and can be implemented quickly with community partners identified in the AVS. Early implementation of certain actions helps 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 AAEEC is playing a key role in implementation of the strategy by providing co-ordination and leadership to the process. 

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.

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 $340 million annually when the AVS was prepared in 2013. 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.

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