At the January 23 Agricultural Land Commission Public Hearing in Surrey, the Surrey Board of Trade presented their support to keep the subject land at 192 Street and 36 Avenue for agricultural (food) production. Acting under section 17(1) of the Agricultural Land Commission Act (ALCA), the Agricultural Land Commission is initiated a proposal to include 123.6 ha (~305 acres) of land within the City of Surrey into the BC Agricultural Land Reserve. The subject land comprises five contiguous properties owned by the Government of Canada. Approximately 89 ha (~220 acres) of the lands are currently leased to local agricultural producers for field crop production. The Government of Canada is considering disposition of the properties, which may leave the lands vulnerable to future changes in land use.
“While we are supportive of the need to intensify and create industrial lands (employment lands), we recognize and appreciate that at the same time we need to harness and sustain local food production,” said Anita Huberman, President & CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “Given the unique nature of this piece of land, using it for anything other than agricultural purposes will be an economic and food security disaster for British Columbia.”
- The 89-hectare field at 192 Street and 36 Avenue is about two-thirds of a property owned by the Federal Government and has been leased by Surrey’s Heppell’s Potato Farm for the last 50 years. The land produces between 30 million and 50 million servings of vegetables each year, which in early spring and late fall are often the only locally grown field vegetables available in BC grocery stores.
- The land is elevated and sandy. It drains very well, allowing farmers to plant and harvest when conditions are rainy and wet, giving residents and businesses the opportunities to enjoy produce when other farms are not able to plant and harvest during the challenging seasons. The land has the right balance of sunshine, temperatures and drainage. Its hilltop location means the land is not vulnerable to flooding and less vulnerable to frost. It receives more sunshine and less rainfall than Abbotsford and Chilliwack and drains much better than low lying Surrey, Richmond and Delta soils.
- During last year’s abnormally cold and wet spring, Heppell’s was able to plant and harvest potatoes before other farmers were able to get onto muddy fields to cultivate them. As a result, the field produced several crops of potatoes, about 70% of BC’s domestic harvest from May to August 1, as well as the first local parsnips, carrots and cabbage. Climate change and supply chain issues challenge the availability of imported food. BC needs to protect its ability to feed itself.
- The Surrey Board of Trade is supportive of Simon Fraser University’s Agriculture Technology Innovation Centre. AgTech is an important economic priority for the BC Government to create jobs and enhance food security. Local farm and food production partnerships with economic drivers with universities are already occurring.
- Agriculture lands are also employment lands. The overwhelming advantages of Surrey’s farming industry make the economic potential lucrative, making it a future powerhouse in the national and global food market.
- Indigenous dialogues have occurred and will continue to occur.