Kootenay demand for local food is on the rise. A recent Rural Development Institute poll found that Columbia Basin residents not only want a local diet, but 69 pre cent are also prepared to pay a premium for local foods. With our region’s farmers among the oldest in the country, the market seems to be calling out for more young farmers to help meet demand.
The catch is that aspiring young farmers face a wide range of barriers to getting established, from a lack of good training options to the high cost of farmland.
In a recent blog post, former Nelson-Creston MLA and longtime organic farmer Corky Evans made a compelling plea on behalf of young and aspiring Kootenay farmers.
“The land I live on in Winlaw cost $10,000 in 1972. It is now appraised at $400,000… or 40 times as much as I paid,” wrote the one-time agriculture minister. “In 1972, an unskilled labourer in the Kootenays (as I was then) made approximately $600 a month. In order for a young person today to have a proportionally equal chance to acquire and pay off the same piece of land, they would have to earn 40 times $600, or $24,000 a month.”
Evans’ post is part of an effort to promote a province-wide series of “land linking” events. Young Agrarians, a B.C.-based young farmer network, is hosting the events to build networks of support around transitioning the province’s farmland to the next generation. YA’s work involves advocacy for innovations like regional farmland trusts and practical short-term strategies like “matchmaking” land-seekers and landowners.
Land linking events combine a practical workshop on the ins and outs of alternative land access arrangements (options like leasing and licensing land) with a potluck social.
“Our main hope is to create opportunities for people with land and people looking for land to connect with each other,” says Laura Hannant, Kootenay Young Agrarians co-ordinator and Creston Valley farmer. “By hosting the workshops and sharing resources, like our B.C. Land Access Guide, we also hope to connect people with the kind of information that can help make a land match work well and last over time.”
These Kootenay land linking workshops will be held in Winlaw on Feb. 12 and Invermere on Feb. 14. Workshops will be followed by potluck socials open to all. A more informal gathering will be held in Creston on Feb. 21 at the Snoring Sasquatch. All events are free or by donation. For more information and to register, visit youngagrarians.org or call 1-888-730-0452 ext. 301.
—KOOTENAY YOUNG AGRARIANS