COMOX - With the release of the new Vancouver Island Coast Regional Agriculture Framework for Action, producers now have a valuable tool to help them take advantage of the many opportunities presented by the growing trend of buying local food.
The government of B.C. and Island Coastal Economic Trust supported the development of the Agricultural Framework to assist the many regions that have identified agriculture as a priority to diversify their economies. The goal is to highlight common themes in local agricultural plans, inspire discussion around co-operative strategies, and provide recommendations to strengthen regional agricultural business development and co-operation across the region.
The report covers Vancouver Island north of the Malahat and includes Powell River, the Sunshine Coast and the Upper Gulf Islands. It identifies significant growth opportunities for the industry, especially mid-sized farms with current revenues between $10,000 and $100,000.
It also highlights the potential to increase production by using more of the agricultural land base for food production, improving the land through irrigation and growing higher value crops.
To assist local government and key stakeholders, the framework identifies specific, targeted actions to move regional agriculture planning forward. It supports the area agriculture plans of many local governments including Comox Valley, North Cowichan and the Cowichan Region, Powell River, Denman Island, Campbell River, Nanaimo and the Alberni Valley.
Many of the report's recommendations are being addressed by work currently underway through the government's Agrifoods Strategy, including the commitment to build support for local foods, consumer education and sustainable farming.
Partners in the project include the Island Coastal Economic Trust, Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
Minister of Agriculture Don McRae -
"There is tremendous potential for agricultural growth in the Vancouver Island Coast region. This report will help producers take advantage of those opportunities, which will build the regional economies, help families maintain their rural lifestyles and provide consumers with local products."
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell -
"Agrifoods has been identified as a key growth sector in the BC Jobs Plan, and its clear from the report that the Island Coastal region can play a significant role in the future of economic development and job creation in B.C."
Phil Kent, chair, Island Coastal Economic Trust -
"ICET is pleased to be working with the Province to develop this report, which views the agriculture sector through an economic development lens. The framework will provide the region, key stakeholders and the trust with valuable tools to foster more resilient, sustainable and financially successful agriculture businesses, which in turn will play a greater role in diversifying our regional economy."
Ian Christison, Morningside Farms -
"The local governments, regional economic development and agriculture community have been working for more than a decade to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in this region. The aims and objectives of the framework mirror those actions identified in the various area plans."
- The Vancouver Island Coast Regional Agriculture Framework for Action covers the Island Coastal Economic Trust's mandate area. It begins north of the Malahat and includes the Regional Districts of Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Alberni Clayoquot, Comox, Strathcona, Mount Waddington, Powell River, the Sunshine Coast and the Upper Gulf Islands.
- Farms in the Vancouver Island Coast region generate over $118 million in economic activity per year (2011).
- Island farmers produce a wide diversity of products including beef, poultry, berries, tree fruit, corn, hops, grapes and medicinal herbs.
- Many Island-grown foods are used on the island to create artisanal, value-added foods such as cheese, wine, cider and spirits, jams, sauces and honey.
The recommendations in the report focus on:
- Strengthening farm organizations.
- Recruiting and supporting new farmers.
- Reducing operating costs.
- Improving access to and use of capital.
- Improving productivity of farmland.
- Maintaining and encouraging growth of forage-based livestock products.
- Expanding consumer education and outreach.
- Improving marketing of regional agricultural products.
- Improving access to the mass distribution system.
- Protecting the environment.
View a copy of the Vancouver Island Coast Regional Agriculture Framework for Action
Ministry of Agriculture