A recent story in The Morning Star stated that Coldstream council was calling back its agriculture committee to prepare for adoption of the new agriculture plan. As one of many acreage owners, I believe the valley-wide rezoning of lands to RU10 and RU30 could have the opposite effect of council’s plan to preserve agricultural land.
All over the world, studies have shown that small agricultural parcels keep local families tied to the land with farming that is viable and sustainable. Yet this plan seeks to increase the size of holdings (74 acres under RU30, 25 acres in RU10).
Apart from the serious violation of a landowner’s right to access the approving agency, the Agricultural Land Commission, the proposed agriculture plan neglects to consider whether farming can be sustainable with rising fuel, water, and machinery prices when compared with low returns.
Larger parcels don’t promote agricultural land. Even in Cuba, where lands have now been given back to the people, the most nutritious food in the world is being grown by small operators (source: Dr. Paul Phillips, reprinted in North of 50), because production is affordable.
There, surplus food is traded among neighbours or sold to market vendors.
Council believes that east Coldstream farmers should be growing grapes, among other value added crops.
Armed with only soil classification reports, does council (and members of the agriculture committee, some of whom have no farming experience in the North Okanagan) not realize that most of east Coldstream is affected by cold outflow winds from the Monashee Mountains in late winter and early spring?
Grapes may grow well in Bella Vista, with temperature moderation from Kalamalka and Okanagan lakes, but they won’t grow in Coldstream, and certainly not on bottom lands where cold settles.
Council also doesn’t consider that the ultimate decision-maker is the sugar content of the grapes, determined by a winery, as suitable or not.
Council refers to “economies of scale” in support of larger parcels. Recently, small local abattoirs were deserving of support, yet multinationals – with their economies of scale which the agriculture plan fervently supports – managed to lobby successfully under the guise of food safety, restricting small local producers.
If Coldstream’s tax base is prevented from increasing with this new agriculture plan, just how much will residential taxes need to increase each year to make up for the revenue shortfall to fund this council’s myriad of projects?
Coldstream’s taxes are going up six per cent this year and council is ensuring our kids will have no jobs in the North Okanagan with this new agriculture plan.
Multinationals owning large parcels of Coldstream land should not be this council’s legacy.
Barb Mitchell, Coldstream