Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Langley Township council was asked: To further foster food security, what should the Township do to encourage more productive farm use of land in the ALR?
Mayor Jack Froese
A. Adopted by council in 2013, the Agricultural Viability Strategy (AVS) assists the Township in achieving its agricultural potential.
The vision of the AVS states:
“The Township of Langley supports agriculture while fostering and encouraging sustainable and viability production. Farmers are respected and appreciated for their contributions to the community and its citizens.”
Based on the vision, the strategy outlines four areas of emphasis:
• Providing a welcoming business environment for farming
• Providing the required services and infrastructure
• Providing a secure agricultural land base
• Ensuring farmer use of best farm management practices
… after all, the ALR is a reserve… meaning save for future use.
Councillor Petrina Arnason
A. A good start would be the development of directives and policies based on input from farmers and small acreage owners in the development of Township OCP amendments and zoning bylaws.
Policy enhancements from the Township could include limiting the size of homes within the ALR and creating a farm “home plate” requirement similar to the Richmond model to protect arable lands from “monster homes,” as well as screening criteria and prescriptive building setback requirements in order to protect farming from other uses.
We could also establish minimum lot sizes and limit the extent of non-farm uses in the ALR, as allowed under our regulated community status through the province.
And finally, we should continue to build on our existing Agricultural Viability Strategy, and meet and confer with the Ministry of Agriculture with a view to protecting agricultural lands, improving the viability of farming, and increasing the number of actively farmed lands within the Township.
Councillor David Davis
A. 1. Stop taking land out of the ALR
2. Stop subdividing into small lot parcels that really don’t promote agricultural – no matter how it is packaged.
3. Farm the land in the Township of Langley the way Mother Nature will allow us, growing and producing crops that we can market.
4. Change the way we think in regards to climate change, market availability (not everything needs to come out of California), and we need to continue to think and shop local.
Councillor Steve Ferguson
A. Priority One (1)
Support your local farmers: berries, fruit, vegetables, and anything grown locally.
Support local farmers markets and local agriculture vendors, and others promoting local farmed produce.
Work with the Agricultural Land Commission to help open up more land for farmers – including youth and new farmers.
Encourage owners of large parcels to introduce crops, even though they purchased the property for other reasons, or to lease the land out to farmers.
Get illegal uses out of agricultural land and bring back farming to those properties.
It’s all about working with folks who own land, not just in Langley but throughout the province, to promote food security – not just for now but for the future!
Councillor Margaret Kunst
A. Hats off to all the farmers in our community, as we have seen the incredible challenges they’ve faced this past year.
To encourage more productive farm use of land, let’s help by making farming more sustainable.
Incentivising food production, supporting food processing and distribution facilities, as well as finding more ways to support our local retailers who provide farm-to-table fresh food is a start.
We need to work together with all levels of government to ensure our policies and regulations help and don’t hinder our farmers and their ability to provide us with the food security we need.
Councillor Bob Long
A. Considering that farm land is only productive a small portion of the year, perhaps the region needs to look at supplementing traditional farming with alternative means of food production such as vertical farming – which if properly executed can grow food all year round.
Councillor Kim Richter
A. In my opinion, the top three things that the Township of Langley can, and should, do right now to foster greater food security are as follows:
• Resist any move to take any farmland out of the ALR for whatever reason, but especially for residential, commercial, industrial, or land speculation purposes.
• Immediately improve diking and other climate mitigation measures/infrastructure to protect the existing productive agricultural lands we already have from loss due to climate change and the extreme weather events that are already happening – as we have all witnessed in the past year alone. This includes flood, fire, and irrigation/water supply protection measures.
Incentivize the use of current ALR lands for food production (including young farmer incentives and opportunities); monitor to ensure all ALR lands receiving property tax breaks are active in needed food production activities; and if necessary, penalize via higher property taxes those ALR lands not actively producing a sustainable amount of food.
We all need food, which means we all need active and productive farmland.
We must protect this farmland going forward in Langley Township and everywhere.
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
A. The Township of Langley has 75 per cent of its land dedicated to the Agricultural Land Reserve and yet less than 40 per cent of that land is actively used for agriculture.
It is important that we work creatively to increase the use of that land for agriculture.
The Township’s agricultural and economic advisory committee has been actively engaged in discussions and strategies around the future of farming.
Some of those strategies include:
• Better communication and web-based tools to educate and promote farming activity;
• The examination of Township bylaws to ensure that any barriers or impediments to farming put in place by the Township are removed or adjusted; and
• To look at ways that we can encourage ALR land owners to utilize their land for agriculture either on a personal level or through a land-sharing program.
There are many creative ways that we can enhance farming in our community, and it should be the first priority for under-utilized ALR land.
Councillor Eric Woodward
A. This councillor failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Next week’s Langley school district trustees are being asked: How can Langley attract enough teachers, SEAs, and other key staff to keep up with the growth in student numbers?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.