North Saanich's Agricultural Area Plan - A First In The CRD

Did you know that 60 or 70 years ago, Vancouver Island grew and provided its residents with about 90 per cent of their food? Today, the Island grows and provides less than 5 per cent. Did you know that if we experience a major disaster that cuts off transportation links to Vancouver Island, we have only enough food at any given time to last Vancouver Islanders for about 7 days? There is a lot of attention being paid these days (as it should be) to food security, local growing and the 100 mile diet. Everyone talks about food (availability, security, organic growing, support for local growers) and I understand that next to the economy, food is at the top of the public's agenda for action.

So I am extremely encouraged to learn that North Saanich is the first municipality within the CRD to start developing an agricultural area plan that will have local, regional and possible Vancouver Island impacts. Derek Masselink of Masselink Environmental Design has been hired to help the District carry out the planning process, starting with a presentation to Council this week that laid out the work plan for the next few months, with a lot of emphasis on public consultation. The consultant has targeted December 2009 as the completion date for the Plan.

I have believed, for some time, that North Saanich is well positioned to be a "bread basket" for Vancouver Island -- North Saanich is where large-scale food production has unlimited potential. In this context, you can call me pro-food development. This was one of the messages that many of us running for Council last fall tried to take to the public -- elect Council members who will work to restore North Saanich's farms and agricultural lands and invest in the future health and security of our community. North Saanich residents heard and understood the message and elected a Mayor and a majority of Councillors who share these goals about strengthening the connection between local food security and health -- completion and implementation of an agricultural area plan is the first step to achieving these goals.

By the way, I want to plug Dean Park on this issue -- when I was door-knocking during the last election, I learned that many Dean Park residents are fiercely rural and agricultural. Over and over again, they asked me to protect agriculture and farming in North Saanich so while Dean Park may look suburban, many of its residents are farmers at heart -- just like the latest YouTube phenomenon Susan Boyle, "Never judge a book by its cover."

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall and Councillors Scoones, Commandeur, Chandler and I are especially pleased that North Saanich's Agricultural Advisory Commission has been instrumental in moving ahead with the project. Planning Director Tracy Olsen and her staff are also providing support to the process, which will involve extensive consultation with all stakeholders, including the farming and agricultural community, other Peninsula municipalities, local businesses and retailers, North Saanich residents and the general public. I was particularly interested to know how we can engage the public in this process so please watch for notices and announcements about public consultation meetings and open houses in and around North Saanich. I understand that the first public meeting is scheduled for May 27, 2009 with time and location TBD.

In addition to this blog, please watch for announcements on the District website and in the Peninsula New Review. If you have questions or comments about the agricultural area planning process, please contact Barbara Brennan, Chair of North Saanich's Agricultural Advisory Commission at 250-656-7808 or Hamish Crawford, Vice-Chair at 250-656-1819.