While not ungrateful for the $2 million provincial contribution toward a replant program—an announcement staged in his orchard Wednesday afternoon—Steve Day says what’s needed to keep agriculture afloat is far more support from both government and consumers.
Standing amongst rows of young apple trees, but with an apartment building under construction in the background on what was once farmland, Day admits that future generations will damn us for putting concrete and asphalt over such good growing land.
But, he says it should not be on the farmer’s shoulders to protect farmland for future generations.
“We should be supported. We’re protecting farmland for the future,” he commented.
Yet farmers have to pay to protect their crop from the weather by buying crop insurance to preserve some income against whatever Mother Nature throws at them, he says.
Farmers have to compete in global markets and at home against fruit that doesn’t have to be grown under our labour laws, with our environmental regulations, he points out.
“We compete against fruit that’s grown cheaper and with less regulation than ours is,” he says.
“If we’re going to grow fruit in Canada and sell it in Canada there needs to be support for a Canadian market,” he adds.
Instead, imported fruit is brought in, even though it’s not grown under the same restrictions, and it competes in the market with locally-grown fruit, which costs more to produce. That results in inadequate returns for Canadian farmers.
B.C. farmers are tied to the Agricultural Land Reserve and have to pay for a government-supported pest control program, the Sterile Insect Release program, instead of it being fully government supported, he noted.
Despite being tied to the land, farmers also have to pay taxes on irrigation to farm it, and then on packing facilities to pack the fruit, while growers in other countries receive subsidies for such services.
Most people go to the grocery store and pick out their produce based on its price, but if they only bought B.C.-grown fruit, it could have a huge impact on local farmers—and the farmland they are protecting, he said.
The Day family has been farming in Kelowna since the 1800s. Steve Day’s grandfather came to Summerland in 1884 and moved to Kelowna some years later.
Currently, Steve and his brother and mother farm 120 acres on Byrns Road in Kelowna.
Other members of the Day family still own and operate farms in other parts of the city.
“It’s in your blood. It’s who you are,” commented Day, explaining why he still farms, even though the returns are low.