In the first week of my position as the Land to Table (then NOFSI) Coordinator, I found myself around a table, at Rancho Vignola, with a group of food system folks. Meeting participants included farmers exploring a co-op, an economic development consultant working with the O’Keefe Ranch, the BX/Swan Lake Community Association exploring opportunities to support retaining the municipal owned BX Ranchlands, amongst others. We were gathered to hear and learn about each other’s work and to think about opportunities for collaboration–or at least how to minimize duplication. More so, we had gathered to share with and learn from Heather Pritchard, former Executive Director of FarmFolk CityFolk and now Executive Director of the Foodlands Cooperative of BC.
Heather had been invited to visit the region and share her ideas and experience regarding the collective opportunities we represented. Needless to say, she was captured by the opportunity the BX Ranchlands presents!
Since that May 2018 meeting, Land to Table has grown and matured a lot (or so we’d like to think), as has our vision of what a strong, vibrant and resilient local food system can look like. So too has the idea of preserving the BX Ranchlands grown, from the idea of a temporary purchase (to build a perimeter trail system and then sell the remaining land) to an exciting vision for an agricultural park. The opportunities here, as voiced by the BX/Swan Lake Community Association and a few local politicians, coincide with the vision that Land to Table has created for a strong and vibrant regional food system.
In the three forums that Land to Table has hosted since January 2018, we have heard consistently from the network that there is a need for more agriculture skilled labour and programming to support skills development, and there is a need to provide the experience of local food—digging, growing, picking, tasting—to school children. These have been identified in most of our network consultations as key aspects of strengthening our regional food system.
The BX Ranchlands vision includes:
Electoral Area C Director Amanda Shatzko is a champion of preserving this land. From early on in her term, she saw the potential for multi-generation education for food sustainability for the region. As a result Amanda has engaged with Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS). KPU has provided a letter to affirm their support for: the development and implementation of a regional agriculture and food system education facility and programming on the BX Ranchlands property.
The ISFS is an applied research and extension unit at KPU. Our focus is exclusively on advancing local-regional, food systems as the foundation for sustainable society and powerful community and economic development driver.
Most recently, at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (GVAC), it was agreed to pursue a feasibility study to further explore the opportunity outlined and supported by KPU.
Does that mean that this land will not be sold? Not really. Are there other municipal owned parcels of ALR land elsewhere in the region that could accommodate this vision? Yes!
Politics aside, it strikes me that during this time of global pandemic (with a spotlight on local food), that this vision is compelling enough to allow the municipal co-owners of the BX Ranchlands to pause and imagine, if only for a moment, the big picture benefit to the community that this land offers.
If this strikes a cord with you, if you can imagine the potential that this land offers in building a strong and vibrant regional food system–one that supports new entrant farmers, grows more local food for local residents, has the potential to create programming and skills development, and allows more kids to be engaged in growing food–you can add your support to this vision through the BX/Swan Lake Community Association support survey.
You can also share your support to retain the BX Ranchlands with local representatives:
This BX property provided hay and pasture for the horses of the famous BX Express that significantly impacted the development of our Province by moving people, good and essential communication throughout BC.
BX Ranchlands is a rare, large parcel (167 acres) of good farmland capable of producing vegetables, berries and forage crops. This land is in the Agriculture Land Reserve. Elected BX representatives wish to retain the entire 167 acres as an agricultural park and provide trail connection on the perimeters, while revitalizing the wetlands associated with the property. Using this land for food agriculture will help create a habitat for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, all critically important for agriculture health.