TFN signs 25-year lease deals with local farmers

The Tsawwassen First Nation have put an end to the uncertainty over 156 hectares of agricultural land in Ladner by signing three 25-year lease agreements with local multigenerational farming families.

The total amount of land represents roughly 60 per cent of the 217 hectares acquired from the Agricultural Land Reserve under the terms of the 2009 Treaty.

Chief Bryce Williams announced lease agreements Monday for 77.6 hectares with Felix Farms, 18.9 hectares with Bow Chong Farms, and 59.7 hectares to Fraserland Farms, to be owned within the Corporation of Delta.

"Through support for local food production, job creation and stewardship of farmland resources, agricultural land contributes to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of the Tsawwassen community while fostering a healthy eco-system upon which present and future generations can depend," said Williams.

"These farmers are multigenerational farming families, well-respected in the farming community," he added.

Fourth generation farmer Peter Guichon of Felix Farms said the previous year-to-year lease agreement with TFN didn't work. Local farmers were reluctant to make improvements to the land with the risk of losing that investment to a sudden land use change by TFN.

Those improvements include things like laser leveling, tile drainage, drainage improvements, and transitioning fallow land into production.

Third generation farmer Danny Chong said good farmland is becoming scarcer each year.

"It's becoming more like a precious resource right now," he said. "And with the Tsawwassen First Nation commitment to allow a 25-year lease the improvements can be made to give a bit of stability."

Brent Harris of Fraserland Farms said much of his land hasn't been productive in a long time and a long-term lease will allow him to change that.

"The farming community needs a bigger land base and this is a good step in that direction," he said.

When TFN took ownership of ALR Lands in 2009 based on the terms of the Treaty, it continued rolling over one-year leases with local farmers.

Earlier this year, the First Nation government developed its agricultural plan in consultation with TFN members, its agricultural steering committee, its advisory council, as well as interviews and meeting with local area farmers and other organizations, said Williams.

The news comes as TFN's massive retail projects are well underway to construct two massive shopping malls situated on 48 hectares of land. The result will be 1.8 million-square-feet of retail space built by Ivan Cambridge Ltd., and Property Development Group.

A further six million-square-feet of industrial space will be built in close proximity to Deltaport to take advantage of the imminent expansion there.

The development plans of TFN, population 439, includes an estimated target density of 4,381 people from the construction of 1,584 single-detached homes and townhomes, and 280 apartment units, all on 99-year leases.

Williams said the new agricultural plan is consistent with TFN’s land use plan, which aims to create a sustainable community for future generations.

"All of TFN’s developments–commercial, industrial, residential and agricultural–work together to support this vision," he said.

Bow Chong Farms and Fraserland Farms will be fully organic operators, while Felix Farms will have organic buffers. The three farming operations were chosen for their willingness to rotate crops to improve soil quality, enact an Integrated Pest Management Program, come up with Environmental Farm Plans, and work with the Delta Farm and Wildlife Trust to establish programs that assist with wildlife habitat.

Williams said the agreements also involved removing some tenants who were not using the lands for agricultural purposes, and consolidated larger lease areas to improve efficiency of farming for tenants.

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