11/12/2013 07:26 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST

The Loss of the ALR threatens our Farmers and our Food

As our population increases and fuel costs rise, how can we continue to take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve? The demand for locally grown food is on the rise. Farmers are searching for innovative ways to grow and market their goods here in British Columbia, especially in Vancouver. If we fail to protect land in coastal communities as well as in the Interior, we will see the end of an era of agriculture.

Farming isn't just a profession; it's a lifestyle. These individuals and families are passionate about the land they steward, the animals they raise, and the fields they plant, weed, feed and harvest. Combine that with long days in rain or shine, spoilage, storage, and transportation challenges and you realize these are special people. Vancouver's farmers markets have over one hundred farmers coming to Vancouver weekly to supply us with excellent meats, cheeses, produce of all kinds and value-added products. Some drive as many as six hours to get to the market for a 7 a.m. set up. Not only do they share the fruits of their labour, they share their stories and unite us with a demographic that ensures our survival. Left to our own devices, many of us would starve. Hurray for farmers!

So how can we jeopardize the lands that have been set aside for agriculture in British Columbia? In the early 1970s, all four major political parties favored some protection of farmland, so in 1975, we saw the protection of the five per cent of B.C. which was critical to the province's food production. Every year, dozens of applications are made to remove land from the ALR for development, and many make it into the news for the controversies they create, such as Delta Southlands and West Cloverdale. I've studied the ALR maps for the region and much of the protected land is near population centres for a good reason. Food should be grown close to where it is consumed to minimize transportation costs and the creation of greenhouse gas. And let's not forget how much better food tastes when it is fresh.

Every year, we see an exponential growth in the amount of food sold at the farmers markets in Vancouver. While a majority comes from the Fraser Valley, we have farmers coming from as far as Cawston, Williams Lake and Herriot Bay on Quadra Island. We also have market stalls that sell produce grown within the city, such as Sole Food, growing food in containers on city or private land, and others that utilize front yards. These innovative solutions allow the urban farmer to prosper. Meanwhile, rural farmers battle with rising land costs and diminishing agricultural land. They continue to pack their trucks for the drive to market. We are so fortunate to have such committed producers in British Columbia.

And as for the preservation of the Agricultural Land Reserve, send a note to Agricultural Minister Pat Pimm reminding him of the importance of food and farming in B.C. If we continue to remove land from the ALR for urban sprawl or oil and gas production, we will be forced to import all that sustains us as well as lose a vital segment of our culture- the farmer.