Local farmers protest ALR

Shara JJ Cooper
By Shara JJ Cooper
April 18th, 2014

Local farmers gathered in front of Kocomos Coffee House, Thursday, armed with picket signs and friendly smiles as they protested the coming changes to the agricultural land reserve (ALR).

The farmers met at gallery 2 before walking to Kocomos to wait for member of the legislative assembly (MLA) Linda Larson. Larson first had a cheque signing in Christina Lake before meeting with Grand Forks and Boundary Region Agriculture Society (GFBRAS) board members to talk about the ALR.

Colleen Ross, who owns a farm on Hardy Mountain Road, helped organize the rally and provided a voice for farmers.

“This affects everybody, especially farmers,” she said. “It’s about food security. People need to start growing their own food in this province.”

Ross has been a farmer all her life and feels that a climate like the one in the Boundary is ideal for farming.

With the soil, warm weather and a good supply of water, Ross says there is no reason that Boundary residents can’t be providing their own food. However, with the changes to the ALR, much of the agricultural land in this region will be available to sell and be used for more profitable ventures.

“People could build condos or a golf course,” said Ross, adding other examples of development could recreation sites and subdivisions. The intention is for the property to be more profitable.

The land next to Ross’ will be for sale once the ALR changes are finalized. She said it’s not profitable for farmers to have those kinds of enterprises next to them and that the land prices are high because potential buyers can build anything there.

“If it was affordable, I’d buy it and add it to my farm,” said Ross.

Ross and her fellow protesters wanted to show Larson that they were against the ALR changes. Ross said she had previously sent a letter and email to Larson but had not received a response.

“Other people have gotten responses, and from that, it seems she knew nothing about the bill,” said Ross.

After Larson’s meeting with the GFBRAS, Ross pulled her aside and gave her a bag of organic spinach from her farm. She stressed that she just wanted local farmer’s voices to be heard and that they were making a friendly statement to the MLA.

Larson, who was in a rush, told the Boundary Sentinel, “I support agriculture and I will take everything these people have told me and take it to the minister.”

Bill 24 hard its first reading in Legislature on March 27.  According to Ross, the majority of farmers are opposed to the bill.

Pat Pimm, Minister of Agriculture, said in a press release, “These improvements are aimed at continuing to protect B.C.’s rich farmland and helping farmers make a better living from it. The changes ensure the ALC is able to protect our fertile agricultural land for another 40 years, while ensuring future generations of farmers can continue to produce food for B.C. families.”

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