Who will take over the farms of the Saanich Peninsula — and those all across Vancouver Island — once the families operating them now reach retirement age?
Will it be their children who wish to carry on with the tradition of farming they were brought up with — or will it be a new or existing farmer looking to start a new life or help maintain an existing operation?
Or will a farm be bought up by a real estate developer with different ideas for the land?
Those are some of the issues facing people as they looked to the future of Island agricultural production at a farm succession planning workshop held March 7 at the Farmer2Farmer conference at the Saanich Fairground. Those attending the session are concerned real estate pressure and a lack of action to see local food production take off whole-heartedly, could prevent the continued farming of appropriate land.
One of the biggest obstacles to farming, they say, is the cost of either buying land or leasing it. By valuing the land in the same way as we value real estate, price barriers go up. And unless people are willing to pay a little more for local food, the costs could keep people out of agriculture.
That’s where farmers need public support. Facing such challenges, it’s going to take grassroots action to maintain local farms. Governments can tout the efforts of local producers all they want, but it’s regular folks who need to follow through.
Cheap food, however, is too tempting for many people — especially when faced with higher prices in almost every other staple we rely on.
It all comes down to a shift in values and a concerted effort to help maintain local food supplies through policy and through action.