For this month’s article, I want to spend some time talking about some of the things happening in the local agriculture sector, both at the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) level and beyond.
In October 2014, the Board adopted the RDEK Agricultural Plan, which is aimed at supporting the local agriculture industry. The plan includes strategies to foster, adapt and sustain the long-term viability of farming in the region.
The key recommendation to come out of that plan was the creation of an Agricultural Liaison Officer position to act as a resource for local producers and help drive the implementation of the rest of the plan.
The RDEK is currently engaging with Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to further discuss partnering on a Regional Agricultural Liaison Officer.
While these discussions are still at the preliminary stage, if we are able to partner on this initiative, the next step would be to develop a business case, job description and work plan for approval by all the partners.
Recently, the RDEK Board had the opportunity to meet with newly appointed Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) Chair, Frank Leonard. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get together with Mr. Leonard, learn more about his priorities, and provide our feedback to him.
One of the recent changes at the ALC level is that the Commission will be returning to the use of regional panels in its decision-making, meaning the ALC Kootenay panel members will focus more on local applications.
This month, the RDEK Board will be looking at how to get more regional input on agriculture. One of the options that will be considered by the Board is restructuring our Advisory Commissions to include better agriculture representation.
Over the coming weeks, RDEK planner Kris Belanger will be gearing up for consultation with residents in Electoral Areas F and G to get a better understanding of how people feel about certain types of backyard agriculture (such as chickens). Watch the local media for information on two public meetings related to this project that will be scheduled later this fall.
As you can see, there is a lot going on at the RDEK in support of local agriculture.
There are also a number of exciting things happening at the producer and consumer level as well.
One example is the Windermere District Farmers’ Institute, who will be constructing an abattoir next year.
They will be holding an Open House on Tuesday, October 6th at 7:30 p.m. at the Columbia Valley Visitor’s Centre when the contract with the operator of the abattoir, Grant Kelly (owner of Grant’s Foods in Invermere) will be signed, and are inviting everyone to celebrate with them.
Gerry Wilkie is the Regional District of East Kootenay director for Area G, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.