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Regional District digs into agriculture

Lenya Roat and Lisa Bhopal-Singh were on hand at the recent Coombs Fair to launch the RDN’s agriculture area plan consultation process. - Neil Horner photo
Lenya Roat and Lisa Bhopal-Singh were on hand at the recent Coombs Fair to launch the RDN’s agriculture area plan consultation process.
— image credit: Neil Horner photo

The Regional District of Nanaimo is well aware that Vancouver Island farmers only produce about three per cent of the food consumed here, and they’re currently looking at ways to do something about it.

That effort was on display at the recent Coombs fair, with RDN staffers Lisa Bhopal-Singh and Lenya Roat helping to get the message to area farmers and consumers that they’re looking for any good ideas they might have.

“We’re beginning a public engagement process,” Roat said. “It will be about a year until we get a draft plan, so there will be a lot of engagement and a lot of opportunity for people to give their input.”

Bhopal-Singh said the RDN has formed an agricultural advisory committee, made up of farmers and other stakeholders, to oversee the plan.

“We want a region-wide strategy on how we move forward on agricultural decision-making at the regional district,” she said. “We want to talk to people and find out what some of the barriers and opportunities they face in agriculture and, as a regional district, what we can do to help overcome those barriers.”

She said some of the fixes could be simple, but others could well prove extremely complex.

“It could be as simple as advocating to other levels of government,” she said. “We also might look at reviewing our bylaws ... to promote farming.

The idea, she stressed, is to look at all the factors that influence farming at a regional level.

She said farmers’ input is key, but everyone in Central Vancouver Island has a stake in the food supply, from producers to consumers, and she wants to hear from all of them.

Although she conceded that much agricultural land lays fallow, it’s crucial to keep it available for farming, should the need and opportunity arise.

“We are on an island and most of our food gets shipped in,” she said. “That leaves us very vulnerable, should there be some form of crisis that interrupts the flow of food.”

To give input into the process, visit the website at www.growingourfuture.ca, or call toll-free 1-877-607-4111.

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