Sept. 17 was quite a night in the halls of decision making for local food and agriculture. Not only did the proposal for the transition of the Sandown Racetrack lands into a community farm go forward to the District of North Saanich council, but the long awaited Agriculture and Food Security Plan was approved by Saanich mayor and council. Wheels of change in motion, slow motion, but momentum none the less.
Over the last 10 years we have seen a steady uptake by local government considering their role around food. Many have argued that food is, and must be, a planning issue. Just as water, housing, transportation, schools, health and recreation; our food system is also in need of coordination and guidance to ensure that the resources, lands and talents of the people of the region are best employed.
The thing we do know is that if we want more control and self-reliance that we need to support our local food system. This goes beyond buying local. You don’t have to look far to see some real challenges that farmers and food producers are facing right now. Farmers who have been in the game a long time continue to face a sea of regulations and battery of wildlife damage and crop losses that beat down the strongest of the survivors; and the small growers, the future new entrants, well getting on farmland to establish your business is pretty prohibitive. So when there is good news to share, well I want to share it.
That takes us back to Monday night Sept. 17 when council adopted the first ever stand-alone Saanich-made, Agriculture and Food Security Plan. We have seen food and agriculture plans developed by local governments with increasing regularity which is good; however these plans often languish on a shelf. Something happened that we need to shine some light on. The Mayor and Council supported the staff recommendation to adopt the plan. What is noteworthy however, is that they put their money where their mouth is (so to speak) and committed staff time and resources towards its implementation. There are mountains to move here people and this might feel like a small nudge, but I am here to tell you that this is another signal in the wind that people are recognizing the value and benefit of taking action.
Coun. Dean Murdock, who was a long-time advocate of the plan posted that he was: “So very pleased to see council unanimously endorse the Agriculture and Food Security Plan, and provide funding for priority initiatives! This important document will help ensure everyone has quality, affordable, local food to put on the dinner table by protecting farmland and creating growing spaces for farmers and urban food producers.”
As Dean leaves council and moves on to the next chapter, he can be proud that he was able to leave this legacy behind. In addition it must be said a tremendous amount of work was done by recently retired Saanich Planner Jane Evans. She worked alongside a committed and hardworking community advisory and consultant Ione Smith of Uplands Consulting. Cameron Scott and Sharon Hvozdanski of Saanich Planning also had a hand in bringing this forward.
Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at email@example.com.