Regional Food and Agriculture Strategy

The Regional Food & Agriculture 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 RFAS identifies the CRD's role in food and agriculture along with recommendations, associated actions and resourcing requirements. Meeting quarterly, the Food and Agriculture Task Force delivers on the first recommendation of the RFAS with regional, cross-sector relationships working together on identified priorities.

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 Food and Agriculture Strategy developed from findings revealed by the 2003 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) update consultation process. During the public engagement phase of the RGS update, stakeholder groups and members of the public expressed the greatest interest in food and agriculture systems out of all nine sustainability topics. Initially treated as two separate topics, food and agriculture were brought together as inseparable elements for RGS planning processes.

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.

Foodlands Access Program and Land Contributions

At their April 10, 2019 meeting, the CRD Board decided to ask municipalities if there is a desire for a foodlands trust and to assess potential municipal lands that could be made available. The resulting Regional Foodlands Access Program Feasibility Study contains recommendations to help address farmland access and increase local food production across the region.

A leading short-term recommendation of the study is to establish a foodlands trust in partnership with a not-for-profit organization using existing publically owned lands historically used for agricultural purposes. This action helps secure the future of regional agricultural production by providing an opportunity for new and younger farmers to enter the industry and learn from established farmers.

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, www.crfair.ca provides resources to buy or grow local food and to support the local food movement.