Why A Foodlands Trust

Farming and food production are the foundation of our local food system and key contributors to regional economies, retention of natural areas, provision of ecosystem services, and community well-being. There is growing public awareness and enthusiasm around building a sustainable local food and agriculture system in BC and beyond.

Farmland in British Columbia is scarce. Less than 3% of the province’s land area has an agricultural capability allowing for a range of crops to be produced (Canada Land Inventory (CLI) Class 1 to 4) (Smith, 2012). The real estate value of farmland is at an all-time high. In 2016, the average cost per acre in BC was $151,000, with land in the heavily populated areas much higher (Cooper, 2017).

In British Columbia we face significant challenges related to secure and affordable land access for food production and community use. Foodlands access refers to the ways in which land is secured for food provisioning and requires that:

  • Land is available (especially to new entrants) for food provisioning;
  • Land is priced at its agricultural value and is made accessible at fair market value for food provisioning;
  • Duration and security of tenure meets the needs of those who wish to grow food and access the land for community benefit:
  • Long-term tenure allows the community to invest in perennial crops like berries, fruit and nuts.
  • Retiring food producers are financially able to transfer their assets to incoming generations.

New entrants face a diversity of challenges and several recent studies confirm that the cost of foodlands is one of the most significant barriers to establishment. Aging, established producers will be facing a record number of farm and foodland transfers over the coming decades, and in many cases, have no family member waiting to take over the land. While BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve preserves foodlands, there is no assurance it will be used for food production.

The community-based Farmland Access Research Project, a  partner project of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems and FarmFolk City Folk’s Community Farms Program, has identified an urgent need for innovative land access and governance models especially for a new generation interested in building alternative and sustainable food networks that utilize environmental best practices to enable regional food security.

In partnership with leaders in the agricultural and land trust sectors, the Foodlands Cooperative of BC serves a complementary function to BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve by facilitating access to farming and foodlands. Foodlands addresses the problematic rising cost of land and non-farm uses of foodland in BC by placing land in trust and ensuring BC’s foodlands remain in production.

The support for a trust has been articulated across the province through various agricultural plans (The Corporation of Delta), food system action plans (Metro Vancouver), economic development strategies (District of North Saanich), frameworks (Vancouver Island Coast) and council reports (District of Saanich). The idea has been further endorsed by nine local governments (Cities of Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Surrey, Port Moody, Bowen Island Municipality) as one of the opportunities for collaborative action outlined in the Metro Vancouver 2016 Regional Food Systems Action Plan indicating that the need is critical and that through collaborative efforts we can leverage cross-sectoral interest and resources.