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Richmond’s farming history

By Samuel Cheng

Published 10:23 PDT, Fri May 26, 2023

Richmond, is a city on an island, located to the south of the City of Vancouver and bordering Sea Island, home of the Vancouver International Airport. Richmond is known for its rich farmland and extensive agriculture history producing vegetables, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and even vineyards producing local fruit wines. Visitors come to Richmond to purchase fresh in-season fruits and vegetables from roadside stands and summer markets. 

Approximately 40 per cent, or 4993 hectares (12,338 acres) of the land in Richmond is within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), provincially designated lands that are to be prioritized for agricultural purposes.

Of the ALR, close to 60 per cent is currently used for farming, while the remaining areas are either vacant or utilized for non-farm related activities.

The City of Richmond (also known as Lulu Island) was sought after by many early settlers who were attracted to the rich, organic and fertile soils found on Lulu Island and Sea Island. This area flourished from the settlement of early pioneers who farmed the land.

As time progressed, Richmond started to attract more and more residents, which in turn slowly transformed the area from a rural, farming-based area into a modern, urban centre while still maintaining a thriving farming community.

Despite the fact that Richmond is rapidly developing into a vibrant city that rivals our neighbouring city Vancouver, the city still treasures and appreciates the “roots” of its foundation—agriculture. Acknowledging the agriculture sector to be one of the most important industries in Richmond, the city has advocated to retain a large portion of the land under the Agricultural Land Reserve as it is an integral part of the local and regional economy.

It may appear as a surprise to some people that cranberries are the number one crop grown in Richmond, triumphing over other crops as it occupies over 33.6 per cent of the land used. Blueberries comes in second at just over 23 per cent and Chinese cabbage at a merely four per cent.

It is safe to call cranberries the official fruit of Richmond as it accounts for approximately 30 percent of the entire province’s cranberry acreage in 2021. Blueberries are another powerhouse as it follows closely behind the production of cranberries.

According to a census conducted in 2006, the farms in Richmond have a gross revenue of $40.5 million dollars. Since then, the figure is on a steady increase, even today. 

The farms generated $48.6 million dollars in 2011 and $57.8 million dollars in 2016. In 2021, it was reported that the gross revenue of the farms in Richmond to be an astounding $66.1 million dollars. 

Although the agriculture industry remains a quintessential part of our society, the aging trend of the workforce is worrisome. With the younger generation becoming more and more disinterested in working in the agriculture sector, or carrying on the family business, the age gap widens year by year.

In order to reduce the age gap, it is important to understand what goes on behind the scenes of the food and vegetables that we purchase. Through engaging with our local farms and farmers’ markets, people of all ages can interact and learn the difference between a local farmers’ market and brand name grocery stores.

Not only can we do our part in supporting our growers by purchasing from local farms, we can also be sure to obtain the freshest produce that are readily available.

Here are some of the local farm producer providers, that can be found in Richmond:

Richmond Country Farms, located on 12900 Steveston Hwy, is one of the biggest farms one can find in Richmond. Having been in business for over 40 years, it has grown in popularity among local residents and those from nearby communities. Customers can expect to find corn, strawberries, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and much more at the Richmond Country Farms and don’t be surprised to see chickens wondering the property.

The gorgeous pumpkin patch is a local favorite when the month of October rolls around. People of all ages can be found on the field picking out their favorite pumpkin for the spooky holiday. The farm market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Since 2014, the Richmond GAIA Farm has opened its doors to serve the community with its naturally grown produce that are free of pesticides and harmful sprays. A large variety of fresh vegetables, herbs, eggs, and strawberries are readily available for its customers to purchase. 

Visitors can expect to find Graham on the fields or rebuilding structures as he has been the lead farmer for the past four years. Graham is responsible for the rotating variety of produce that customers can choose from. The Richmond GAIA Farm is located on 12640A Blundell Road and is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also along Steveston Hwy. and Westminster Hwy. there are farmers’ fruit and vegetable stands or several farms where you can ‘pick your own fruit’ when in season or, Kwantlen’s street market is another, just watch the media for what’s happening in our community. 

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