We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on food security.
David Cubberley, mayoral candidate:
Local food production is growing and there’s renewed interest in farming and eating local food, but access to land and sources of local food remain scarce. Saanich can play a more constructive role in expanding opportunities: we’re way overdue for new allotment gardens for personal food supply; we can build on our success at Haliburton Cmty Farm by establishing Panama Flats as the next level of incubator farm in Saanich; we could make Saanich produce more visible and accessible by establishing a public market; we could work with TLC to bring more farms into stewardship arrangements.
Frank Leonard, mayoral candidate:
I was pleased to Co-Chair the provincial review of farm assessments that resolved the controversy over split assessments. Saanich has adopted food security policies in our community plan which promotes local farming. We were pleased to acquire Haliburton Farm and are now pleased to acquire Panama Flats – which will protect floodplain and add land to the Agriculture Land Reserve. I am also a fan of pocket markets – allowing people to sell their local produce.
Susan Brice, council candidate:
Factors that put food security at risk include climate change, transportation costs and loss of agricultural land. I have a record of protecting agriculture land, supporting favorable water rates for our farms and supporting locally grown products. There is a move by more of our residents to grow their own produce or buy from local farmer’s markets. There is more confidence in buying local because people can track the chain of production and avoid increasing costs of transportation. Saanich has a proud history of farming and council has an obligation to protect the land from urban encroachment and to educate the public at large about the value in supporting local production. I support the bylaw allowing for Pocket Farm Markets as a means of helping the public seek out locally grown healthy food choices.
Judy Brownoff, council candidate:
Saanich needs to have some community farm markets close to where people live. Sometimes it is hard for a resident, who may not have a car, to get out to the farm gate. Let’s bring produce closer to our populations. I will be encouraging food security as a new strategic priority as part of the update to the Regional Growth Strategy. I would like to see us introduce fruit trees in parks and work with our Peninsula Agricultural Commission to see more awareness on Buy-Local Programs. I would support a Regional Agricultural Economic Development Plan.
Vic Derman, council candidate:
Not that long ago, we produced 50 % of our food here on the Island. Now, it’s about 5%. That’s a concern in a world where climate change and other problems could create an uncertain future. Recently, I partnered with Councillor Murdock in bringing a report to Council on protecting local agriculture and food security. The report, which was unanimously accepted by Council, builds on past achievements such as creation of Haliburton Farm and the purchase of Panama Flats. It recommends we establish a task force to design a comprehensive local agriculture and food security policy in Saanich. I look forward to creation of the task force and the important policy that it will produce.
Paul Gerrard, council candidate:
One of the most important policies that Saanich Councillors agree upon is the protection of ALR land. We do this by accepting appropriate development within the Urban Containment Boundary. However, farmers cannot afford to buy farmland, so they have to find land that they can lease. I support local farming, organic practices, pocket markets and community gardens, but we also used to produce a large percentage of food on Vancouver Island, which today is under 10%. Saanich just purchased Panama Flats, which has produced crops in the past. Maybe some of that land could be leased out to farmers at a reasonable rate.
Ingrid Ip, council candidate:
I think we in the CRD have a unique range of grocery options with several suppliers strongly supporting local growers. We need to continue to respect the Agricultural Land reserve and to support our local growers during times of extreme weather.
Dean Murdock, council candidate:
The cost for families to put food on the table is rapidly increasing. With rising costs of importing foods from the around the world, it makes sense to focus on growing food right here at home. We can make our region food secure by respecting the urban containment boundary and refusing to allow development on farmland. We can promote local food production by implementing Saanich’s “buy local” food program and working with local municipalities and businesses to encourage adoption of similar programs. We should promote local food markets and expand community gardens on public and private open space.
Vicki Sanders, council candidate:
I believe food security will be provided by protecting the ALR, zoning bylaws and encouraging responsible processing rules and regulations.
Nichola Wade, council candidate:
For too long, governments have focussed on protecting farmland without enough focus on protecting the farmers. Food security initiatives are some of necessary first steps to do so. Local markets, support for local produce & producers must not lead us to a closed mindset however. The fine balance between local sourcing & high food standards to maintain public heath are critical.
Leif Wergeland, council candidate:
It is no longer just about preserving agricultural land but rather how do we encourage food to be produced on these lands. For a number of years farmers have been given a reduced tax rate and water rate. We must also work on ensuring that large and small pocket farms alike have an opportunity to market their produce. We must help promote the economic and health benefits of buying local. We must look ahead at a way of attracting and encouraging the younger generation to take up some form of farming – urban or rural. Local agriculture should be part of our school curriculum.
Rob Wickson, council candidate:
Here on the Island we are vulnerable and we have been too complacent for too long in not taking seriously what would happen to food resources if we faced a major disaster that prevents food supplies from getting to the Island. We could be looking at creating employment opportunities in farming by looking at viable, sustainable business models that work in other communities, perhaps cooperatives or Small Plot Intensives. In my own neighbourhood I support urban farmers and see this network developing.
Harald Wolf, council candidate:
Food security is defined in different ways to meet different agendas. In our case, it must be framed in the context of living on an Island that imports the vast majority of its food from areas now threatened by drought, or highly dependent on cheap fossil fuel inputs. To change the vulnerability this puts us in will require a herculean effort and coordination by all residents and jurisdictions on the Island. It means much more than a few more community gardens or a few backyard chickens; we’ll need to feed half a million people. There are also opportunities that can be tied this to increased economic independence, by increasing agriculture and food processing – even tying in local sustainable energy production.