Input is being sought for a strategy that will support the growth and sustainability of the agricultural sector in the Shuswap.
On Monday, Sept. 9, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s economic development officer Robyn Cyr and Erica Crawford of the Sustainability Solutions Group will be hosting an open house for the development of the Shuswap Agriculture Strategy. It will run from 7 to 9 p.m. at the old Mt. Ida Hall at Harmonious Homestead and Ewe.
Crawford, the consultant hired to guide the strategy’s development, says one of the meeting’s key goals will be to gather a list of agricultural assets in the Shuswap that could be utilized to support the industry. She says this may include assets not necessarily linked to agriculture.
The meeting, says Crawford, is part of an ongoing effort to engage the agricultural community, as well as the general public, to look at what mechanisms could be built on to support food security and the sustainable growth of agriculture in the region.
The strategy will apply to Electoral Areas C through F (South Shuswap, Falkland-Salmon Valley, Sicamous-Malakwa and North Shuswap-Seymour Arm), as well as the City of Salmon Arm and the District of Sicamous, which are municipal partners through their respective representative economic development bodies.
“Some of the communities will have official community plans. What this document will do is take that one step further and it will give us a really clear idea of where we want to go with agriculture into the future,” says Cyr. “It will complement the City of Salmon Arm’s OCP, it will complement the District of Sicamous. Some of our rural areas don’t have OCPs, so as they move towards that, or start to maybe revise their land-use bylaws, this document will be in place to help guide them. It’s like having a guiding policy to make sure you stay on track and make sure everybody agrees that’s where you want to go.”
Cyr says the strategy will include an implementation plan with achievable goals that will allow work to be done immediately.
Asked about the issue of agricultural land disappearing for residential or uses by municipalities, Cyr says the strategy is not about protectionism, but to help guide best land-use practices.
“When I think of communities in the Lower Mainland, there’s been so much agricultural land taken, and there’s been subdivisions put on it… We need to be conscious of where we’re building subdivisions and, if there’s better land that could be developed for a subdivision that doesn’t have the types of soils that are very good for agriculture, then maybe we could look at shifting,” said Cyr, speaking hypothetically about where the strategy is going. “It will be sort of a guide, a checklist. Are you sure this land can’t be used for this or whatever?
“I think that’s our purpose, to ensure what we have for agricultural land, stays as agricultural land.”
Those unable to attend the Sept. 9 meeting are still encouraged to provide input. The website, www.growshuswap.com, has been set up for this.
Cyr says they are trying to make sure every sector in every community is represented.