Speculators targeting Richmond farmland threaten local food supply

By Lisa Tanh

Speculative development is raising Richmond’s farmland prices and slowing down local food production says a grassroot organization fighting against this issue.

Laura Gillanders, a Richmond resident and coordinator of FarmWatch, an organization that is focused on preserving Richmond’s farmland and curbing speculative development, said that one by one farmland is being converted into mega mansions. The most recent example is a four-acre blueberry farm on Number 7 road that was purchased last year for $2 million dollars and is now being listed for $7.7 million dollars. To date, the property has been relisted four times and received a permit to build a mansion.

According to FarmWatch, Richmond has the best soil for farming in all of Canada and only a developer can purchase farmland now – which is threatening the future of local food.

“Because the farmers that are producing local food are aging out, there isn’t anybody who can take over the farm and continue on with it,” Gillanders said. “We will stop producing local food and that’s happening sooner rather than later.”

Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture announced they will be reviewing the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR), which was established in 1973 to protect B.C’s dwindling supply of agricultural land.

“The Ministry of Agriculture guidelines to bylaw development in farming areas state that the single most important factor in keeping farmland prices reasonable is the home size,” Gillanders said. “So they recommend that a home size be calculated no larger than what would be allowed on a nearby residential lot. But these are just recommendations [and] municipalities are not following them.”

Kent Mullinix, the director for the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, said the issue should have never gotten this far.

“The city of Richmond should have a bylaw in place that says on agriculture land, farm land residences cannot exceed a footprint of X and then this wouldn’t even be an issue,” he said. “But the city of Richmond didn’t do their job, from my perspective. [They] voted for estate residences on ALR land.”

Miles Smart, a third-generation farmer who runs Cherry Lane Farms on Beckwith Road, said the rise of farmland prices is creating other problems down the line.

“It’s hard to find laborers that will stay with you season after season because it’s tough to live in [the] city,” he said. “And then there’s the problem of restaurants that have been closing in Vancouver – or simply don’t open up shop – because rent is too expensive. That leads to restaurants not having the money or desire to buy from small local producers which makes my job more difficult.”

Gillanders said people need to understand that only five per cent of land in B.C. is in the ALR and that only one per cent is prime for producing fruit and vegetables.

“This is an important issue for all of Lower Mainland, B.C. and Canada,” she said. “There are jobs and food on this land and to just pave it it over, so that one person can make millions of dollars by exploiting a property, is not a long-term good use of this land. It was put in the ALR for a reason – it’s for food production.”

[Photo Credit: FarmWatch]

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5 Responses to Speculators targeting Richmond farmland threaten local food supply

  1. nonconfidencevote says:

    Its a shame but this is happening everywhere in Canada not just the lower mainland.
    Farmland either disappearing due to the expansion/amalgamation of land at the periphery of large cities or farmers “aging out” and no one in the family interested in continueing the business.
    Money talks bullsh!t walks.
    If I’m a farmer who’s sitting on 50-100 acres and the property taxes are eating me alive……and my kids hate farming……do I sell it for a less than it’s appraisal to another farmer( who may flip it) or do I sell it for millions to a developer. I know what 99% of the human race would do.
    Agricultural Land Reserves used to mean something . Not any more.
    The arable land is disappearing people…..dont be surprised or bitch about $10/loaves of bread in 10 years……with 1 billion asians joining the middle class……its coming sooner than you think…
    The Economist magazine devoted an entire weekly Magazine to this very Topic a few years back.
    The Picture on the cover ?
    A burn piece of toast with a dollars sign in the middle.
    The title?
    “Say Goodbye to Cheap Food”

  2. Monsterhousemayhem says:

    There is something seriously wrong, when one monster house is bigger than the community library or local church. I don’t care how many ‘generations’ live under one roof. It needs to stop, and the ‘racist’ card needs a rest!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree. We must do everything we can to protect the #ALR. If you would like to — stand with us — to protect Richmond farmland, our petition can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/city-of-richmond-bc-mayor-and-councillors-limit-house-sizes-on-agricultural-land-reserve-alr-in-richmond-b-c #RichmondBC

  4. Big T's says:

    The ALC wishes to continue on restricting the land values and use of private land that it deems beneficial to the public good. Then the Government should instead of violating the constitional and property rights of individuals needs to pay for these lands at what would be fair market value. Then the Government could lease the land to be farmed. Or force labour through the prison system or political dissidents could be forced to do hard labour comrades.
    The ALR and ALC are communist systems that strip rights and financial capital from rural people so they can be enslaved to keep urbanites food cheap. Imagine if your house was subject to use restrictions and forced intrusion while the identical house across the street was not. Your house would be lucky to sell for 25 percent of the one across the street. Thats the difference of being in the ALR and being out of the ALR.
    If people in BC want this through back to the days of gualages in siberia and communists system that created it.

    • Anonymous says:

      But people know when they purchase property zoned as agricultural that the primary purpose is for agricultural and that there are rules around that. And speaking of the house across the street, when the house across the street which is 3000sqft has to look at a house that’s 11000sqft, there is something seriously wrong. Farmland isn’t Shaughnessy.

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