By Stephen Evans. I hear lots of side conversations about the development of a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for our City. Having worked as an Economic Development Officer, more than a decade ago, and holding a degree specialising in the subject matter, I can attest to how far behind our region is with regards to strategic support for our various business sectors. I can also identify a number of agencies that need to be immediately engaged within the development process for such a corporation including the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Improvement Association, Community Futures South Fraser, the Indo-Canadian Business Association, the City of Abbotsford and the University of the Fraser Valley. However, I would also like to see representation from the Agricultural Sector. Having worked in the Ag sector for the past five years and experiencing what is happening on a global scale with production and pricing of some of our local commodities, such as blueberries, I am deeply concerned about how stable our agricultural industry will continue to be both in terms of production and employment levels.
I would like to offer some potential insight into how we can best address various issues within the agricultural industry as part of the CDC’s mandate. Starting with production, there seems to be two major issues facing local producers:
1. the complete lack of cluster development and agricultural strategies; and,
2. the lack of properly zoned processing plants.
I think we need to address these two primary issues immediately such that both are dealt with strategically and fairly. The lack of cluster development supports means limited secondary production for our agricultural products at the local level. I can personally attest to the number of trucks shipping out millions of pounds of raw ingredients with little to no secondary production. I can also attest to the number of production facilities that need a relook at the zoning by-laws within the City, at the Regional, Provincial and Federal levels (as CFIA, the Department of Health, Fraser Valley Regional District and the City all play a part in approving food processing plants).
I am also deeply concerned about the lack of promotion taking place within the region. It seems every time we turn on the television there is some food show talking about shopping local. Well I don’t see a lot of promotional activities taking place to support local farmers and their agricultural products. I believe consumers have changed and that we want to buy fresh, local produce but are perplexed about the contradictions we face when shopping for food – how can we value Organics when we continue to import them from Chilly? We need to be actively advocating for the “Grown in BC” mindset.
These are just two important issues within the agricultural sector that causes me great concern. In the coming editions, I will continue to identify concerns facing local farmers and producers and what we as a City can do about them.
Image from terra-tours.ca