(Black Press Media files)

Wanna join the Langley Farmers’ Institute?

The newly formed group hosts a membership meeting Sunday, Dec. 15

The new Langley Farmers’ Institute is hoping to grow. The new local agriculture advocacy group is holding a membership meeting Sunday.

Co-ordinated through the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS), the institute is for anyone in the Langleys involved in agriculture as well as any member of the community with an interest in the sector.

“Farmers’ institutes are actually just non-profit organizations that support and represent farmers,” says Ava Reeve, a staff member at LEPS. “They can advocate on behalf of farmers to all levels of government, or to industries or to the public. They can offer education and resources, like how to deal with drainage problems, or develop missing infrastructure, even an abattoir.”

An October meeting helped gauge interest in creating a farmers’ institute.

“We had at least 50 people attend from a wide range of farming backgrounds, and they were all fairly enthusiastic about this type of organization,” she said. “It was a really lively conversation. A committee volunteered to draft up the documents to register the organization and now we’re ready to open it up to the community to join.”

The Dec. 15 meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the George Preston Recreation Centre, 20699 42nd Ave. Farmers from all commodities and land sizes are invited, including youth, said Reeve.

The Langley Farmers’ Institute is already communicating with other local agricultural bodies like the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation, and the Township of Langley’s Agricultural Advisory and Economic Enhancement Committee.

“What’s makes a farmers’ institute different from these is that it’s member-based,” Reeve said. “Anyone can join and participate and have their voice heard on farming issues.”

Voting members will only be active farmers residing in Langley, but non-farmers and residents from outside Langley can all be associate members, sit on committees, and participate in the institute’s activities.

“But it’s all very much in development,” says Reeve. “If you have ideas about how it should operate or what it should focus on – what Langley’s agricultural sector needs – this is the time to get involved.”

The institute will offer memberships at the meeting and present the first edition of the bylaws that shape how the institute functions. The different possible roles for members will be explained, and attendees will set a date for an AGM in the new year, when directors can be elected and committees struck.

“If you’re interested but can’t make it Dec. 15, please send us an email and describe your availability for January,” says Reeve. “We want to accommodate as many people as possible. The ideal scenario would be having every farmer in Langley involved.”

There are other farmers’ institutes around the province and each decides it focus. Some are based around providing information and education for members while others are more active in lobbying various levels of government over issues related to not only farming but also farmland uses and issues such as the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The Langley Farmers’ Institute revives a tradition of farmers’ institutes across B.C., which had historically included more than one in Langley alone. Many of these evolved or dissipated over the decades, but Reeve believes there is new potential for the FI model and different from the other agricultural groups such as berry growers.

“The difference between this farmers’ institute and the commodity associations is that it’s locally focussed, so it can get more involved in municipal and regional-specific issues,” Reeve added. “Plus, being cross-commodity means different types of farms can band together and have a stronger voice on the things that affect everyone, like flooding or development.”

Those attending the Sunday meeting who are interested in membership should being $25 cash to join. Reeve will be coordinating some food, but says potluck is welcome. Questions and RSVPs can be directed to langleyfarmersinstitute@gmail.com.

Why does supporting farming matter? It’s important for both food provision and employment.

About three quarters of the land in the Township falls under the Agricultural Land Reserve. There are more than 1,100 farms in the Township and that accounts for more than half the farms in Metro Vancouver.

The Township is third in B.C. for the value of farm gate revenue, with totals going up 23 per cent from $277 million in 2010 to $340 million in 2015.

According to the Township website, 3,679 people were employed by farms in the Township in 2016, and the 2011 cash wages totaled $59.4 million.

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