Foodlands Access

A viable and resilient local food and agriculture system is important to the capital region's sustainability. Local food and agricultural production systems face many challenges, including the loss of farmland, cost of farm operation, age of farmers, and food prices.

A Foodlands Access Program is being developed to support new and young farmers by facilitating affordable access to productive farmland. This work delivers on recommendations from the 2019 Regional Foodlands Access Program Feasibility Study, which identified recommendations to help address farmland access and increase local food production across the region.

From 2020 to 2022, the CRD partnered with Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Institute for Sustainable Food Systems to develop technical site assessments and a business case. The business case provided information about parcel suitability and identified initial capital and operating costs to advance a foodlands access incubator program for new farmers on the three parcels.

The proposed Foodlands Access Program will focus on:

  • Reactivating an underused portion of Bear Hill Regional Park for a five-year agriculture pilot project that will host an incubator program for 10-15 farmers to start or expand their farming operations.
  • Providing grant funding to support farmers who participate in the B.C. Land Matching Program, pairing private landowners with aspiring farmers for long-term land leases.

On June 28, 2023, the CRD Parks Committee gave an initial indication of support for using the Bear Hill farm site for the program. In summer 2023, a Request for Qualifications will be released to identify qualified farm site operators to lead the program.

Once experienced operators are identified, the program proposal will be refined, and staff will canvas local governments and electoral areas for interest in service participation to finalize the funding approach. The target for establishing the new service is early 2024.

Regional Food and Agriculture Strategy

Food and agriculture in the CRD are part of a larger interconnected system that includes planting, irrigation, harvesting, processing, distributing, preparing, marketing and consumption. Managing food waste, soil nutrients, wildlife and invasive species are also integral to the food and agriculture system.

The Regional Food & Agricultural Strategy (RFAS) details regional food and agriculture objectives, issues and opportunities to guide action and foster leadership in developing a resilient food and agriculture system. The Food and Agriculture Task Force delivers on the first recommendation of the RFAS with regional, cross-sector relationships working together on identified priorities.

Thanks to the ongoing work being done by the CRD and community partners, the updated 2018 Regional Growth Strategy targets increasing land in food production by 5,000 hectares by 2038. The RFAS and the RGS work in tandem to guide planning and decision making in the region.

Why a Regional Food and Agriculture Strategy?

In the process of updating its 2003 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), the CRD learned that food and agriculture was a high priority and a topic of growing public interest and concern.

During the public engagement phase of the RGS update, stakeholder groups and members of the public expressed the greatest interest in food and food systems out of all nine sustainability topics. Initially treated as two separate topics, food security and agriculture were brought together as inseparable elements for the ongoing planning process.

Who is involved?

The Capital Regional Food and Agriculture Roundtable (CR FAIR), Peninsula Agriculture Commission (PAC), Victoria Food Funders Network, Victoria Foundation, Island Health, Ministry of Agriculture, First Nations communities and municipalities with agricultural interests are all working together to foster a healthy local food and agricultural economy.

How did the Strategy evolve?

The region’s food and agriculture sector is influenced by:

  • The fundamental role of food and agriculture in the long-term sustainability, resilience and health of the region and its human communities
  • A supportive system, from production to transformation and distribution to waste recovery
  • The global food system's preference for cheap food over local and healthy food
  • Food and agricultural enterprises, and the lands and families that create and support them, that are economically tenuous
  • The current inability of the provincial agricultural policy framework to give food production preference over other forms of agriculture
  • The Province and local government's limited ability to undertake regional approaches benefiting food and agriculture: e.g. the acquisition and management of agricultural land, economic development, management of problem wildlife and invasive species, watershed management, provision of affordable water services and local economic development approaches
  • First Nations Douglas Treaty rights “to hunt and fish as formerly” on unoccupied lands throughout the region
  • Predicted changes in climate, energy costs, water availability and agricultural production have drawn attention to the ongoing resilience of the region’s food system

Where does the Strategy apply?

The draft Regional Food and Agriculture Strategy applies to the portion of the CRD on Southern Vancouver Island only. The Salt Spring Island and Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Areas each have their own food and agriculture strategies.

What is the role of the CRD?

A healthy, place-based local food and agricultural economy is a matter of regional interest. Food and agriculture, as a fundamental human endeavour, is critical for the future health and wellbeing of our community. The cultivation and provision of healthy food and the long-term development and care of local farms and farmland - regardless of whether farmland is currently used to grow food - contributes to the development of a healthy culture and a liveable, resilient, secure and sustainable community. There is growing expectation and interest in more CRD involvement. Issues related to food and agriculture are predicted to increase and will continue to require a regional approach.

Regional districts, municipalities and electoral areas do not have a specific mandate over food and agriculture. However, the food and agriculture sector is impacted by CRD services such as water delivery, environmental protection and conservation, watershed education and drinking watershed protection and management, liquid and solid waste management (including rural septic programs), invasive species eradication / native plant restoration, and more recently, wildlife (deer, geese, beaver, bullfrog) management. The draft RFAS identifies how these services relate to food and agriculture and provides recommendations.

Food and agriculture are generally considered to be the sole responsibility of the Province and the Federal government. However, the Province and the Federal government have been unable to provide the level of attention and support required to see the integration and growth of a healthy, place-based local food and agricultural economy within a developing region like the CRD. There also appear to be gaps in the current responsibility framework in areas such as the management of wildlife within developed areas, locally focused economic development, and long-term agricultural land protection.

Resources for local food

The Capital Regional Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) has come to represent the agricultural community in the region. For more information, provides resources to buy or grow local food and to support the local food movement.