Access to local food a growing concern

District of Saanich works on Agricultural and Food Security Plan to help improve food self-sufficiency

Kristen Miskelly leads a tour through her Saanich Native Plants nursery where she is building a native plant seed bank at Haliburton Farm with Saanich News publisher Oliver Sommer

Kristen Miskelly leads a tour through her Saanich Native Plants nursery where she is building a native plant seed bank at Haliburton Farm with Saanich News publisher Oliver Sommer

Saanich residents are concerned about the cost of and seasonal access to local grown food.

This was one of the findings that emerged during an open house that the District of Saanich held as its initiative for improving local food security moves forward.

It emerged as gathered community members discussed measures to improve food self-sufficiency, a step that saw participants identify gaps in the local food system.

“Based on feedback we have received from community members, some of the key barriers that were identified were cost and seasonality of local food,” said Cameron Scott, manager of community planning.

This finding is broadly consistent with the results of a non-scientific survey that Saanich had already conducted during an earlier phase of its Agricultural and Food Security Plan.

The survey had asked participants what prevented them from buying locally grown food, and 51 per cent of respondents identified cost and seasonality as reasons.

Scott noted that a number of retailers focus on local food as a “core component of their sales.”

“Also, farmers in Saanich use farm gate sales as a way to sell their products and attract people to their farm,” he said.

“Overall, there is a diversity of locations for farmers to sell their products in Saanich and the region.”

This said, the Agricultural and Food Security Plan will also examine additional retail opportunities, Scott added.

This discussion of gaps in the local food system was one of five major topics or themes of discussion during the open house held Jan. 18 at the Cedar Hill Golf clubhouse.

A second one revolved around steps to improve the interconnection between food production and the environment.

Under this heading, sub-topics included farming and natural ecosystems, composting, water management, wildlife concerns and climate change.

“All of the issues listed are important issues to people in the community and can hold different levels of importance depending on the area of the community we are talking about,” said Scott. “Certainly from an overall perspective, understanding the potential impacts of climate change and building a resilient food system is a primary consideration.”

The three other themes revolved around local food system awareness, land use management and support for multi-generational farmers and emerging farmers.

Full results of the workshop will be available online.

 

“Next steps include checking in with key stakeholders based on issues raised at the workshop and developing a draft plan,” said Scott. “There will be opportunity for public input on the draft plan, which is targeted for completion in April/May of this year.”