Agriculture – more than ever!
My name is Lorenzo and I’ve been working as a host and educator at Ecodairy for about a year and a half. Over the course of that time, my passion for agriculture in the Fraser Valley has grown and grown again as I learn countless new things about this vital industry in our community.
This year from February 10th to 16th, us here at Ecodairy will be celebrating Ag Week, a national initiative to showcase the incredible things happening in agriculture in our country and to help us create a closer connection to our food and the people that produce it. Because of this, I thought it would be a great time for me to share some of the things I’ve learned over the last few years. Now, I like numbers so things might get a little more technical than usual here on the blog, but keep reading and I promise you will learn something new and come away with a greater appreciation for agriculture in our province.
Ag in the Fraser Valley – Why so special?
Every day I try to remind myself that we live in a very special place. There are countless reasons for it, but one that often gets forgotten is all the farming that goes on. The Fraser Valley is the highest producing agricultural area in BC and the highest producing in Canada when you compare it to the amount of land we have. Our mild climate, high quality soil, and easily accessible water mean that it is a great place to grow food! 2.5 million people live in the Lower Mainland today, a number that will rise as high as 3.6 million in the next 25 years. That’s a lot of mouths to feed! Thankfully we have BC farmers to provide almost 50% of all the food we eat from grocery stores. On top of this, our farms are incredibly diverse, producing over 200 types of agricultural products. In an age of industrial farming and mono-crops, this is a huge accomplishment which means our agricultural economy is about as strong as they come. Agriculture’s influence goes far beyond the farm gates however. On top of the normal farming you think of, the broader agricultural economy includes transportation, food processors, retailers, wholesalers, the restaurant industry, and in our case, tourism! Then there are all the mechanics, retailers, veterinarians, construction workers, credit unions, advocates, and others who all provide services to farms and the people who run them. It’s hard to think of anyone whose life isn’t impacted by agriculture in one way or another.
Farming today – Not just boots and barns
You know how the old joke goes, about why the farmer won an award? Because they were out-standing in their field of course! Well farming isn’t quite so simple, especially today. More and more, computers, robotics, and other technology are making their way into barns across our province. As agriculture finds its place in our connected world, countless new skills are needed on farms to help things run as smooth as possible. Interested in electronics, engineering, and computer technology? Well there’s a place in agriculture for you! In fact, people of countless backgrounds and skill-sets are needed right this very instant to try and solve the numerous challenges that agriculture is facing today, especially here in the Fraser Valley. Now’s the time to get involved!
Farming in the future – What will it look like?
As I mentioned above, agriculture is facing a number of challenges that we’re going to have to deal with if we want to keep growing food. For instance, how will climate change affect us over the next fifty years? Thankfully we have the great minds at the Fraser Basin Council that are already thinking about how flooding could impact the Fraser Valley. Another challenge is the urban sprawl that is not-so-slowly making its way to Abbotsford from the big city. With mountains to the north, ocean to the west, and a border to the south, there’s nowhere for the growing population to go but east. While we have programs such as the Agricultural Land Reserve to help us protect our farmland, the impact of rising land prices and increasing urbanization still threatens the success of farmers. 40% of farms in the Fraser Valley are less than ten acres in size, which means that we have to use the land that we have very efficiently. One way we’re tackling this problem is with hydroponics. Using our Hydrogreen growing system, we can grow the same amount of feed for our cows in 12002ft that would otherwise take 30 acres of land to grow! This allows us to use the rest of our farmland for other important things, helping us become as productive as possible. While this is one potential solution to a problem, there are still many questions without answers, such as how do we introduce this technology while still respecting the knowledge and ways of life that traditional farmers hold? Now is the time to put our heads together as a community, province, and nation and really think about the future. Agriculture – more than ever!