Agriculture strategy explained

  • Mar. 14, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Submitted by Mary Lou Schroeder-In November 2009, the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, the Graham Island East Coast Farmers Institute, Islands Food and other interested stakeholders met to discuss the potential for agricultural growth as well as the challenges and opportunities facing local farmers and producers. The participants identified the need for an agriculture strategy to provide direction to and development of agriculture on Haida Gwaii.Although MIEDS has coordinated the process, the input from the public has been the driving force and has provided the direction, priorities, goals and action plans for the Haida Gwaii Agriculture Strategy and Implementation Plan.Local researchers reviewed historical and current agricultural practices on Haida Gwaii including the types and volume of food currently produced on islands and the successes of farmers in other areas having a similar climate, latitude and economic base. The Haida Gwaii Culinary Co-op developed “agricultural product profiles” with the goal of creating products which give local farmers, producers and harvesters opportunities to add value to their goods by partnering on dehydrated culinary products such as soup mixes. Haida Mapping digitized Canada Land Inventory data to create soil classification maps illustrating the various soil types, climate and Agriculture Land Reserve boundaries on Haida Gwaii. Seventy participants in the ‘Future of Food on Haida Gwaii’ workshop held last month reached consensus on a vision of agriculture on Haida Gwaii. They saw agriculture as becoming sustainable and providing for a self-sufficient lifestyle for islanders. The shared vision spoke of small farming endeavours rather than agribusiness models of agriculture. Participants saw the future in terms of healthy communities and working partnerships. Participants defined the future as ‘local’.The following action plans were developed by sub-committees formed at the workshop. The action plans have ‘champions’ who are following up on the tasks involved. Other goals have been identified as important but do not have action plans developed at this time. Production Support. Train and hire an extension agent to provide support and resources for local food producers. Establish experimental/demonstration farm(s) and plot(s) . Establish community farms. Support from local governing bodies to allocate land near communities for agricultural purposes. Protection of the ALR. Access to landMarketing. Development of a branding logo to market local food and other products (ie: ‘Buy Haida Gwaii’). The development of a ‘local food’ web page with farmer and producer contact and harvest information Education. Workshops/training for local food producersBusiness Opportunities. Soil amendment production and/or delivery. Agriculture tours . Establishment of a formal bulk buying and shared freight businessMIEDS is currently presenting the Agriculture Strategy and Implementation Plan to the islands’ governing bodies. As part of the presentations, the following questions have been asked with respect to the strategy and implementation plan.Where are the Jobs?Although there is some room for employment within the agricultural sector (labour, marketing, maintenance, construction etc) the primary opportunities appear to be entrepreneurial in nature. These include: greenhouse production, community supported agriculture models, small plot intensive gardening opportunities (ie: box a week orders), market gardens, meat and dairy, berry production (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries) and sheep raising (wool, meat and dairy).In addition, food producers can generate revenue by forming partnerships with local food processing facilities to add value to produce, meat and dairy (packaging, processing etc).What is expected of the governing bodies?The Agriculture Strategy and Implementation Plan will require support from the governing bodies. Assistance may be needed in addressing policies and regulations affecting local agriculture including access to land and support for protection of the Agriculture Land Reserve from non-agricultural development. A clear agriculture strategy, outlining the paths and safeguards we need to make today to ensure food security tomorrow, is one of the greatest gifts we can give the generations that follow.

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