Will North Saanich’s idea of a new trust created to acquire more farmland in Greater Victoria take root?
That is a very good question. While the concept of a region-wide farmland trust and acquisition trust seems to be coming from the right place, it just might not be realistic.
On the surface of the problem lies the fact that farmland, when it becomes available, is very expensive. Longtime farming families sometimes use that property value to finance their retirement. Unless a farmer, or farming company, has the capital to take it on, that land will get a lot of pressure by land developers.
By no means is that example the hard and fast rule to farmland exchange, but it’s generally accepted that new farmers trying to obtain enough land to make their business profitable are few and far between.
The local food movement certainly makes the idea of acquiring more or existing farmland before it’s lost sounds reasonable. Yet, due to that cost, it will take some doing to convince regional municipalities to contribute enough to make the program worthwhile.
In North Saanich, the district has the potential to gain farmland in a pair of land deals. The former Sandown race track is proposing to give the municipality most of its property in exchange for a significant commercial development area close to the highway. The owners of Glen Meadows Golf and Country Club are proposing to close the course, shave off a bit of land for large lot housing and donate the lion’s share to the district as additional farmland.
Both proposals could be good for area farmers but as pointed out by Councillor Ted Daly this week, there doesn’t seem to be anyone chomping at the bit to farm it.
To be fair, it’s still early and those projects have not yet begun. The future of that land — and North Saanich’s regional land acquisition trust — is still up in the air.