Next Report

Agriculture and Food Security


RATIONALE


Recent times have seen a dramatic growth in public concern about sustainability of both local agriculture and food supply in our community. During the same period, Council has taken important steps towards supporting local agriculture and food supply through measures such as local procurement policies, broadened permissions for keeping chickens in the urban area and the purchase of Panama Flats. Earlier Council actions include measures that have seen the creation of Haliburton farm and support for protection of Madrona Farm. Collectively, these initiatives, and others, have laid the base for a comprehensive Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security policy in Saanich.


 There are many advantages to be gained from establishment of a comprehensive Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security policy including:


1. The policy could become a framework document for ensuring the viability and long term sustainability of Rural Saanich.


2. In an increasingly uncertain world, the policy could do much to encourage local food production while reducing reliance on an imported food supply that may become problematic. (It should be noted that local food supply in Saanich, our region and the Island has decreased dramatically over the last half century.)


3. Increasing local food supply has the potential to be an important part of broader initiatives to address climate change.


4. Increasing local food supply, especially on public lands, can provide an opportunity to support local food banks and otherwise support individuals in need.


5. Measures such as promotion of special events and vibrant farmers markets, typically undertaken in comprehensive policies, have the potential for considerable “community building”.


6. Establishing a comprehensive policy provides the opportunity to set priorities and undertake a systematic, logically connected approach to accomplishing goals.


 While there are limitations on Council’s ability to act there is much that can be done including:


1. Ensuring, over time, that Council bylaws are consistent with Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security goals. Particular attention should be paid to the “urban/rural interface”.


2. Continuing to make land available and supporting policies that make land affordable for young farmers entering the profession. New initiatives could build on successes such as Haliburton Farm, Madrona Farm and Panama Flats.


3. Creating opportunities for marketing of farm products including: establishing physical locations for farm markets, promoting local agricultural products, promoting events that celebrate local agriculture in Saanich and considering the establishment of additional such events.


4. Reducing, where possible, costs involved in farm operations. Permit fees for agricultural infrastructure could, for example, be reduced.


5. Establishing policies and initiatives that support “Urban Agriculture”.


6. Undertaking a proactive approach to the establishment of new community gardens


7. Establishing a policy of “edible landscaping” on public properties within the urban area


8. Providing for and/or supporting educational initiatives concerned with local agriculture and food supply security in the region. Educational initiatives could be tailored to broadly inform homeowners, provide “how to’” guidance for would be urban farmers and support the established agricultural community. In addition, educational initiatives could provide huge opportunities to partner with local school districts and involve youth.


Clearly, creation of a Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security policy would take considerable time and effort. Given the significant and growing issues that already face Saanich Planning staff, it would seem unreasonable to burden them with yet another major task. However, Saanich and our region already have many individuals, groups and organizations in place who have both interest and expertise. In addition, the municipality and region host a number of post-secondary organizations with considerable resources committed to sustainability concerns.


It might be possible, therefore, to consider the creation of a Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security task force with a mandate to create a draft Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security Policy for Saanich. Staff’s role under this scenario could be reduced to establishing the terms of reference for the task force and reviewing the draft policy prior to bringing a report to Council. Finally, it should be noted that there is never a need to “re-invent the wheel”. Other jurisdictions have already undertaken creation of similar policies. It is likely that much of their work could simply be “adapted” to Saanich.      


RECOMMENDATIONS


1. That Council forward this report to Planning staff with direction to establish the terms of reference for a Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security task force with a mandate to create a draft Local Agriculture and Food Supply Security Policy for Saanich.







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