OUR VIEW: Farms need strong ALR

If people fear the loss of farmland on the Peninsula is the selling out of local food, they just might be right.

If people fear the loss of farmland on the Saanich Peninsula is the selling out of local food and a traditional way of life, they just might be right.

They would also be right if they said that once farmland is put up for sale by a landowner that does not want to till the soil any longer, obtaining that land may be well out of reach for other farmers. Unless they are pretty darn wealthy.

Last week’s real estate notice that the Vantreight Farm is for sale — and earmarked for a multi-unit housing development — put a chill over those individuals and groups that would rather the property be maintained as a farm. A pair of the owners say they’d rather it stay that way, too, but there are financial implications and family affairs behind the scenes that might yet disrupt those plans.

However the Vantreight Farm issue plays out, there’s a serious matter facing farmers and potential farmers on the Island.

The cost of land is prohibitive. As outlined at a workshop on farm succession planning at the Farmers2Farmers conference earlier this month, once land goes up for sale, it is marketed for real estate — which drives the cost up. Developers can see returns for their investment at that price — farmer generally cannot.

It’s this valuing of all land as potential real estate developments that puts the lie to recent property assessments of ferry terminals and airport control towers. If those lots ever entered the market, land speculators would snatch them up — paying a premium to do so.

To ensure the committment to farms and the people who work them, B.C. must maintain a strong Agricultural Land Reserve that can win buy-in from various sectors who value local food.