The BC Agricultural Research & Development Corp. can help farmers and ranchers look after waterways on their properties. (ARDCorp./Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley farmers get help to keep creeks healthy

A provincial agency works with farmers and ranchers, recently helping some on Bertrand Creek

Improving the environment has never been a more important topic. Farmers and residents of Langley and Aldergrove have an easy way to make a difference both on their own properties and to Bertrand Creek.

This creek, which connects to a variety of other waterways and runs south of the border to the Nooksack River, is actually a travel route for endangered fish and is a measure of the environmental health of the region.

There are more than 600 properties along Bertrand Creek and on the land above the watershed it feeds.

Property owners now have the unique opportunity to be part of a group Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) for the region. EFPs are offered through the BC Agricultural Research & Development Corporation (ARDCorp), an organization that provides resources to B.C. farmers and ranchers. Participation is voluntary, confidential and gives property owners the information they need to enhance their properties to benefit the health of the creek and surrounding areas.

Alder View Dairy worked with Dave Melnychuk, a Fraser Valley planning advisor with ARDCorp, to make sure the farm was doing the right things to maintain the health of Bertrand Creek, which bisects the farm.

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Things have changed since 1945 when Mark Enns’ family started dairy farming on the Aldergrove-area site. He keeps his cows in the barn so they don’t add fecal matter to the creek, and he recently improved his manure management.

“We are just basically trying to leave the creek alone,” he said. “You can’t have your animals going through your creek so the animals stay inside now.”

He built a manure storage facility over a decade ago and recently added another shelter this summer to allow for greater capacity. This reduces the need to spread manure in wet months when there could be concerns of manure nutrient runoff into the creek. Melnychuk did some nutrient testing with Enns in some forage growing areas on the property to determine the best application timing and volumes of nutrients.

“We did it about five years ago,” said Enns of the soil testing. “They use plugs of soil all around the field. Based on results we’ll find out how we should change.”

This ideally represents a cost-savings for farmers in their nutrient application as well as an improvement to crops and the environment. Soil tests are the best way to define the right amount of nutrients for optimal crops without the waste of over-application. Soil tests obviously help farmers like Enns, but they also help rural properties with gardens, septic systems and animals avoid any nutrient run-off into Bertrand Creek.

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Jim Dales owns Kensington Prairie Farm which is also located along the creek. He worked with Melnychuk and found the best way to construct a bridge to access both sides of the land and keep the creek safe.

“We were pretty much aware of what had to be done. We’ve had several meetings with Dave to learn what’s required and what we can do to help,” Dales said. “We’ve got a walkway bridge across the creek. We go from the house side of the creek to a barn on the west side of the creek. We also have a free-standing bridge that allows us to move the animals across the creek without going in it.”

Here, too, Melnychuk has helped with a nutrient management plan.

“He’s helped us with the environmental management plan. He’s also now done soil testing,” Dales said. “It gives us an idea of what the nitrogen and phosphorus is in the soil. So it helps with the management.”

Farms and residents interested in learning more about the new group Environmental Farm Plan can contact Dave Melnychuk at 604-812-3276 or davidmelnychuk@telus.net.

Funding for this program is provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

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Dave Melnychuk is the Fraser Valley planning advisory with the BC Agricultural Research & Development Corporation which helps farmers and ranchers with creek health. (Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

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