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The Problem of Growing Buildings on ALR Land

November 13, 2011

“The trouble with growing homes on farmland is you only get one crop”, said my new boss / wicked food producer one day as we were on our way to a farmers market.  What a powerful statement, it really cuts to the core of our development-friendly society, and it identifies a huge problem in Burnaby.It has been shown time and time again that once we pave our food producing lands they are lost for ever.  No remediation effort can reclaim the land to its former productive self, its capacity to produce food lost forever.

Its easy to overlook the problem. I will admit that five years ago I had no idea we had an Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), nor did I understand the importance of protecting farm land. I looked around my hometown (Surrey), saw lots of farmland, and failed to see the issue.

Its an easy thing to do – take our farmland for granted, but we need to stop, and we need to stop now.  ALR land is meant to be held ‘in trust’ for communities.  We seem to have a lost generation of farmers – the average age of farmers is 52, and most will be retiring soon. We need to keep their land in trust for a new generation of farmers who are coming (I promise).

New farms are springing up everywhere, young people are getting excited about farming again.  We need to keep our ALR land in trust for these young people.  We need to ensure that land is not being paved, and do more to stop the practice of ‘mega-homes’ built on farmland, as both practices make already high priced land even more expensive for new farmers.

We are lucky in Burnaby, we have some amazing soil in the Big Bend (peat! – I literally dream about peat soil!), and it is used by farmers (many of them Chinese), growing food for themselves, and the entire Metro region.  But we have failed these farmers, we have used the cheap land (developers love ALR land) to chase the suburban dream – car friendly, ‘big box’ development in an area where there are few houses and almost zero transit.  We have failed.

The time has come for city hall to start thinking about our future.  We need to be able to grow our food in the city, and we need to stop rezoning ALR land! If elected, I promise never to support the removal of ALR land under any circumstance.  If not, I promise to hold council accountable for any ALR decisions.  I will do my best to speak for the land, and stand up for future generations.

We must no longer use our farmland to ‘grow’ houses!

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