The agriculture community in the North Cariboo is coming together in a more formal way now that a new committee has been formed.
At its April 13 meeting, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) adopted a bylaw to establish the CRD North Cariboo Rural Agricultural Development Advisory Committee (ADAC).
John Massier, vice-chair of the CRD and Electoral Area Director for Area C (Bowron Lake-Barlow Creek-Barkerville), believes this is a positive step.
“It’s really a link between that agricultural community and local government,” he says.
Massier believes the ADAC will provide an important link between a variety of people within the agricultural industry in Electoral Areas A (Red Bluff/Quesnel South), B (Quesnel West/Bouchie Lake), C and I (West Fraser/Nazko).
“It’s nice to have that group to pull these ideas together and pool them when it comes to raising the funds for major agricultural projects, and raising awareness is also an important role,” he says.
“It will give us, as rural directors for the CRD, a group of people we can go to for advice when we go to do Official Community Plans and when we talk about farm-edge policies and things to do between developed areas and agricultural land. Sometimes we get applications to the Agricultural Land Review, and we can forward that to this group if the group decides.”
This ADAC is something the CRD has not had before, according to Massier.
“We have a huge farming and ranching community,” he says, noting there are about 400 agricultural properties in the North Cariboo. “This is a step we can take to show them support. Agriculture plays such an important role, and … I think it’s an industry that can certainly grow in the Cariboo.”
The North Cariboo Rural ADAC is a result of work that began with the North Cariboo Community Opportunities Session, held Sept. 20, 2016, to support increased economic development and diversification.
An Agriculture Working Group (AWG) was formed to support the implementation of the priority actions identified at the Opportunities Session, which included the formation of an ADAC, furthering progress on the Quesnel Agriculture Centre Feasibility Study, developing an agricultural employment strategy, and developing a marketing plan for the “Grown for you” brand.
The North Cariboo Agricultural Marketing Association (doing business as FARMED) was chosen as the team leader for the AWG.
The CRD provided funding for the formation of the ADAC through the North Cariboo economic development function, and the bylaw forming the North Cariboo Rural Agricultural Development Advisory Committee was adopted by the CRD board on April 13.
Lori Fogarty, the AWG team leader and a member of the AWG ADAC sub-committee, says most of the ADACs in the province are in the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and Vancouver Island. There are only three north of the Thompson-Nicola region, and this will be the fourth and the only one in the North Cariboo.
“It gives a more legitimate connection with government,” says Fogarty. “It’s not an official government body, but it does have legitimacy because it has been put into bylaw by local government. We now have an organizational body people can go to if they have concerns or ideas, they want to innovate or they are finding barriers.”
Lynda Atkinson, who is also on the AWG ADAC sub-committee, says another important positive about this committee is it consists of people who are connected to the land.
“You have a group of people who are aware of what’s happening and have an ability to move things forward in a way that’s really authentic,” she says. “They have that background so you don’t have to start at the beginning every time.
“We live in this urban-rural split now in the province; we have so many people who don’t have that connection with the land. We are trying to bring them together. There are a lot of good resources now for people in agriculture and agri-forestry, and we’re hoping we can link those people. Because government really does want to support agriculture.”
The top two priorities for the Agriculture Working Group were the formation of an Agricultural Development Advisory Committee, and furthering progress on the Quesnel Agriculture Centre Feasibility Study.
Throughout 2017, the AWG worked on establishing the ADAC. FARMED recently received a Project Development Grant through the BC Rural Dividend Program for $10,000, explains Fogarty.
“Our main focus is to support the ADAC to move forward their strategies and also to move forward the Agriculture Centre Feasibility Study.”
When they say “Agriculture Centre,” they don’t mean a physical centre but instead having extension services by hiring someone, ideally an agrologist, who could provide knowledge and access to information, explains Fogarty.
“We need those extension services here if we are going to economically develop the agriculture sector.”
Fogarty says both the AWG and the ADAC agree moving forward with this feasibility study is the next step.
“I think a focus really is on building capacity and linking with innovative practices,” adds Atkinson. “Also linking all the groups together who are already working in agriculture.”
The North Cariboo Rural ADAC has seven members: Erin Durrell from the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association, Sheri Shweb from the BC Forage Council, Rob Borsato from the Quesnel Farmers’ Market, Martin Rossmann from the Kersley Farmers Institute, Roy Josephy from the horticulture industry, Morgan Ross from the College of New Caledonia, and Nicole Pressey from the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We’re very appreciative of the fact our very busy producers and sector representatives came forward to serve on the committee,” says Fogarty.