Angry orchardists demand change

Growers meeting with NDP leadership hopeful say their industry is hurting.

  • Mar. 4, 2011 7:00 p.m.

The apple industry is in dire straights, local orchardists told NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth at a panel discussion that found new farming technology advocates seated before a room full of angry orchardists.

The meeting was intended to give the MLA a taste of the issues young farmers—primarily those working small and urban plots—face in growing the new sector of agriculture.

But it didn’t take long for the audience, a mix of orchardists and stalwart NDP members, to give Farnworth a piece of their mind.

“This industry is beyond the septic tank,” shouted one angry apple grower who declined to give his name.

He told the politician he is $58,000 in the red, a sum he estimates would take three years to recoup, and that his son is abandoning the farm to work in Alberta because he sees no future in apples. The orchardist could not understand why the NDP has done so little to help  farmers and suggested the party needs to bring Farm Income Assistance back to subsidize the farmer during years when costs are not covered.

It is the least he believes the party could do to repay those who had their land ownership rights severely curtailed when the NDP instituted the Agricultural Land Reserve in 1971.

The president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, Joe Sardina, told Farnworth the orchard industry pumps $200 million into this area annually and yet, from what he sees, the farmers’ plight is falling on deaf ears.

“It’s shameful that this province has the lowest per capita spending on agriculture in terms of GDP. Absolutely shameful,” he said.

Sardina pointed to the ALR as well, saying he felt it was good policy to protect the farm, but the province has forgotten to protect farmers.

An additional $118 million in annual spending is needed just to meet provincial spending averages across Canada, he said, adding if the government were to stop pouring money into provincial sports teams and putting roofs on stadiums, farmers might be able to earn a living.

For his part, Farnworth appeared to listen.

“We look at those mountains. We look at the minerals and we don’t think we can grow anything,” the MLA said, admitting he’s targeting agriculture in his platform because he doesn’t think the party has put enough emphasis on the sector.

After the meeting, Farnworth said what he  took from the comments is that marketing, like the Buy B.C. campaign scrapped by the Liberal Party when it came to power, is important to farmers, as is spending to support farmers via farm insurance-type programs.

But he also acknowledge the largely young, small-scale urban farmers whose panel was intended to dominate the evening.

“We need to ensure we have supports in place for the next generation of farmers in this province and we need to recognize that agriculture is changing,” he said. “Small-scale urban agriculture is becoming increasingly popular, (as is) medium agriculture and new crops.”

Among the young farmers to speak was Jordan Marr. He told the MLA he consciously chose to be a farmer because he believes feeding people is an important profession. But he said the traditional model for farming requires so much upfront capital to purchase land, it’s almost impossible for him to even consider. Instead, he’s earning his living on rented land with no certainty about how long he can sustain it.

“Pedal-power” urban farmer Curtis Stone said he needs government to look at the existing regulations that prevent the landowners he borrows space to farm on from receiving tax breaks for their generosity.

Unlike the farmers in the ALR who receive considerable breaks on their property taxes, his landowners still give their space to grow a healthy crop of food for their neighbours but receive no rewards for doing so.

Both Marr and Stone said the deck is essentially stacked against them when it comes to ALR regulations, which often protect farmers who do not want to farm the land, but know how to work the system, over people who are generating significant income growing urban crops.




Just Posted

Kelowna, Lake Country boarders hit B.C. Games podium

At the Kamloops BC Games, Big White boarders Central Okanagan boarders win medals

Gold for Apex Freestyle Club skier at B.C. Games

Kelowna’s Jordan MacDonald wins gold in Kamloops at the B.C. Winter Games

Feature Friday: Life in the sex trade

A view into the life from one Kelowna prostitute and the issues it can cause for women

Future Olympians sought in Kelowna

RBC Training Ground event evaluates 100 young local athletes

Victory lap to honour Serwa

Big White Ski Resort did a victory lap to honour the skier who won gold in the Olympics

What’s happening

Check out what is happening this weekend in the Okanagan-Shuswap.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Rockets fend off pesky T-birds

Kelowna and Seattle go back and forth in an entertaining WHL affair

Canucks fold 5-3 in first ever trip to Vegas

Daniel Sedin had two points as Canucks fall to the Golden Knights Friday night

That’s a wrap: B.C. Games results after Day 1

Vancouver-Coastal Zone 5 is in the lead for medals Friday at the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games

Familiar faces head up library board

The executive of the Okanagan Regional Library board remains the same

Sticking the landing at the B.C. Games

Gymnasts talk competition, B.C. Winter Games, and teamwork in Kamloops

Therapy dogs make appearance at B.C. Games

The St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program launches a pilot project at the 2018 Kamloops B.C. Winter Games

$153M in federal cash to fund child care, education training in B.C.

Bilateral agreement will create 1,370 new infant and toddler spaces

Most Read