Thursday, February 27, 2014
Frontline for Farmland
ALR forum March 2 features expert panelists
Released by Denise Brennan, Graze Restaurant
The Graze Restaurant will host an ALR forum March 2nd. Below, Graze Restaurant owner Michael Lyons is concerned about non-farm activity happening on designated farmlands in the Lower Mainland.
ur local food supply is not secure - in fact, the total farm area in British Columbia decreased 7.9% in just a five-year period between 2006 and 2011, according to Stats Canada.
Michael Lyons, owner of Graze Restaurant (3980 Fraser St.), a farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant, is so concerned, he's hosting a forum on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) on March 2nd at 6pm. The forum is also a fundraiser for FarmWatch, a grassroots neighbourhood group working to protect local farmland. The Lower Mainland has some of the most fertile class 1 soil in the world, and it is under threat.
"Construction waste is being dumped on farmland, mansions are being built on it, land is being bought and held for speculation, and farmland is needlessly being used for industrial and residential use," said Ray Galawan, a member of FarmWatch and a fourth-generation Richmond farmer who will speak at the forum.
Last year, Galawan galvanized his neighbours to bring attention to the dumping of construction waste on a 35-acre farm in his neighbourhood. Galawan took his 1960s fire-engine red tractor to Richmond City Hall and Premier Christy Clark's office and with help from concerned friends and neighbours eventually stopped the dumping.
While frontline organizations like FarmWatch have had some notable success in raising awareness, proposed changes to the ALR favour development and put farmland at even greater risk. Panelist Dr. Lenore Newman, Canada Research Chair in Food Security at the University of the Fraser Valley, says the time to act is now. "We have to choose to protect our farmland, or we won't have the option of local food. Protecting near-urban agricultural land with conscientious urban planning is key".
Richmond City Councillor Harold Steves first introduced legislation to create the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as an MLA in the 1970's,and is still a leading proponent of farmland protection. He serves as a regional director and Vice Chair of Planning and Agriculture for Metro Vancouver.
"Farming is important for food security and for creating so many jobs - from the field to the table - from farm stands to manufacturing and canning, to sales and marketing," said Steves. "We need to be protecting these precious resources for future generations."
"Vancouver residents already care deeply about supporting local, fresh and delicious organic food. Still, most of us don't know that our source is at serious risk right now" said Graze Restaurant's owner Michael Lyons.
"We think it's important that this discussion take place in our urban centre and we are very happy to support that happening here. Talking about the importance of quality, local food security while eating a farm fresh meal, it just makes sense" said Lyons.
About FarmWatch BC
FarmWatch is a grassroots group of farmers and residents, based in Richmond. Together they protect farmland from dumping and save farm ecosystems from degradation.
Graze Restaurant: Graze features a plant-based menu (including all wines, beers & spirits) incorporates as many locally & organically produced ingredients as possible.
For more information about Farmwatch, visit www.farmwatchbc.blogspot.com
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