Attitudes toward farmland preservation changing in Kelowna

A file photo of a tractor working on agricultural land.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM HAS CAUGHT THE ATTENTION OF AGRICULTURAL LAND OWNERS

KELOWNA - Backed by a new determination from city council, attitudes are changing toward agricultural land in Kelowna, the man tasked with its preservation says.

“I think people are starting to see the value of it, there’s no question,” rural planning manager Todd Cashin says.

He gives credit to Mayor Colin Basran and council for backing the agricultural compliance enforcement program in 2015, mainly targeting construction and landscaping companies illegally operating on local farm land.

After years of benign neglect — Cashin says the political will wasn’t there — the city got serious about enforcing its own rules, focusing on the Benvoulin corridor and compiling a list of the worst offenders.

The city approached them all, asking them to comply with the agricultural zoning bylaw, with varying degrees of success, Cashin says.

“We’ve been getting compliance from most, but a few we’re still banging our heads on,” he says.

Still, Cashin believes the enforcement program has caught the attention of agricultural land owners, who now realize the city is serious about agricultural land preservation.

“Having the support of council and the Agricultural Land Commission makes a big difference and breaking it off into small chunks, like the Benvoulin corridor, helps, too,” he says.

A 2014 B.C. Ministry of Agriculture land use inventory shows Kelowna has 8,686 hectares of land in the agricultural land reserve, about half its total land area.

Of that, just 48 per cent was actually farmed, with the most common crops being tree fruit (41 per cent), forage and pasture land (37 per cent), grapes (nine per cent) and cereals (four per cent).

Find more stories on the agricultural compliance program here.


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