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The sweet fruits of preserving our farmland

By Coun. Laura Gillanders

Published 2:40 PDT, Fri May 26, 2023

This is my favorite time of year, when travelling through Richmond’s farming areas reveals freshly ploughed fields and the start of a new growing season. 

We are so fortunate to live in Richmond with its hundreds of acres of protected farmland to secure our future food supply. We have access to fresh local farm products almost year-round, from the earliest spring strawberries and spinach to mid-season blueberries and carrots, to the last harvests of potatoes and pumpkins in late fall. 

As Council members, one of our key roles is to ensure we have policies that protect farmland and encourage and support the farming sector. We also advocate for protection at higher levels of government, including the Province which is responsible for governing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

In 2022, Richmond had 12,338 acres of farmland in the ALR or 39 per cent of our land base. In 2023 we lost 150 acres when the province, without any advance warning to the City of Richmond, removed 150 acres of ALR farmland so a local industry could continue its operations. 

In 2017, I and many others, became concerned about protecting our farmlands from sprawling residential development in the form of so-called mega mansions. I supported City Council in its 2018 decision to limit the size of homes on Richmond farmland to 4,305 square feet. This was at the high end of sizes recommended by expert Richard Wozny of Site Economics, hired by the City to determine a house size limit that would deter speculation. Now as Councillor, I will continue working to protect farmland and ensure such limits stay in place.

Since the decision to limit the size of homes on farmland, land values in Richmond have stabilized. This has allowed some farms to be sold and purchased on their agricultural merits and not as a place to build a giant home. These are steps in the right direction. Other threats exist such as climate change, using productive farmland for industrial purposes like truck storage, and the dumping of illegal fill.

In 2021 to stop illegal dumping, Richmond adopted a new soil protection bylaw which has given staff the tools and ability to fine non-compliant properties and greater ability to demand remediation. The City has also hired an additional soil bylaw officer to identify properties not in compliance sooner and avoid additional damage to the lands.

Richmond is a leader in environmental sustainability, and Strategy 5.4 of our 2022-2026 strategic plan is to support agriculture and local food systems to enhance food security. 

June is strawberry month and I wish you all the freshest strawberries picked from a local Richmond farm this year. 

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