Quesnel Community and Economic Development Corporation (QCEDC) hosted the North Cariboo Agriculture Forum in April of 2015 in partnership with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training (JTST).
The goal of the forum was to receive input from the agriculture sector that would lead to a regional agricultural development strategy. Included in this would be the identification of needs, opportunities and attainable priority projects that would help the sector’s development for years to come.
Close to 60 North Cariboo producers attended the forum, representing their farms as well as at least 10 different agriculture groups. The regional manager from the Ministry of Agriculture was also in attendance to facilitate the discussions as well as a representative of JTST.
After a day spent brainstorming as to what would best advance the development of agriculture in the North Cariboo, the participants were asked to identify the top five projects of all the possibilities discussed during the day. The participants also identified the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of the various projects.
By the end of the day the five top rated projects included:
• a large umbrella organization including a central processing facility;
• a wool mill processing facility;
• development of a local and regional food policy;
• a young farmers mentoring program;
• recruit producers to Farmers’ Market.
With a grant from Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC), the City of Quesnel commissioned a study for the top-rated project, the Agriculture Centre Feasibility Study.
A steering committee was formed and input was sought from more than 60 local agriculture people through community meetings. An online survey provided 24 additional responses.
The study also reviewed existing agriculture centres and what constituted best practices in each centre.
The consultation process in the study showed the top requirement for this area was having a person, possibly an agrologist, in the immediate area who could assist with networking amongst local producers, provide expertise/access to information on a variety of agricultural services and subjects and possibly the option to include applied research as this is one of the easiest type of project to find funding for.
Several locations were considered and the most popular seemed to be somewhere in close proximity to the the Quesnel CNC/UNBC campus.
It was determined that grant funding for a pilot project should be pursued. Three years was the suggested time line for
the pilot project at a cost of around $200,000 a year.
Toma and Bouma Management Consultants from Vancouver presented their findings to City Council May 10.
QCEDC manager Amy Reid is now tasked with bringing a staff report on the Agriculture Centre Feasibiity Study to the Joint Planning Committee as soon as possible.
She said council’s response include a suggestion of a resolution to UBCM regarding improving agriculture extension service in this area.
“Going forward there has to be regional support for the project to gain traction,” Reid said.
“At this time no further funding has been committed to this project.”