Saturday, September 08, 2007

Something You Should Know

I can only go for so long and then there is a political post choking me to get out. I can't help it. I guess, I am a political person. Perhaps everyone is.... I don't know. Recently I have been getting involved with local politics. Why, you ask? Well, because I am deeply concerned. At the corner of Aberdeen Rd and Hwy 6 (a few blocks from my house) lays a very productive alfalfa field that is part of the Coldstream Ranch. It is a very productive field. The far end was actually an orchard when I moved here and it has also grown corn and other forage crops.

Did you know that only .06% of BC is considered #1 arable land? Only .06%. Most of that is in the lower mainland in places like Richmond but a significant amount is also here in the Okanagan. Did you know that when land is taken out of the ALR (Agriculture Land Reserve) some is supposed to be put in? Did you know that we have been operating at a net loss for several years? Did you know that the very best agriculture land is mostly what is being taken out (in the southern parts of the province) for urban development and it is being replaced with the least productive - mostly up north? Did you know this? Too many of us do not. Check this out for a very well written and researched article in the June issue of Okanagan Life. Very informative! It ought to be required reading for every resident of our province.

This alfalfa field contains #1 - 3 land - some of the most productive in the province. Right now a Vernon group - a conglomeration of sports organizations attracted to and supported by the Funtasic Society because its moula wants to buy up 110 - 120 acres of this prime agriculture land currently being farmed and build a mega sports complex on it. They say it is their only alternative. They say it is for the children. In fact, the driving force behind it is the drunken party that happens once a year called Funtastic at which children are not welcome... And in fact there are other pieces of land in Vernon and about to be annexed by Vernon that would be more suitable but because these are now speculative lands, they cost a great deal more. Agricultural land is artificially less expensive and its worth to our society is immeasurable. Urban ignorance is astounding. At the council meeting, I heard a large, beefy ex-football player from Vernon (why was he at a Coldstream Council meeting, I don't know) scoffed that the fields they wanted for their stadium were currently alfalfa fields as though that had no value.... I wondered if he ate beef... I've certainly never seen a vegetarian quite so buff... Yet he seemed to have no idea of where his food comes from.

So I have been out to meetings - a Coldstream Council meeting and a community information meeting and I have spoken out at both. One thing I have had to say is that this is not really for the children. There would be several fastball diamonds included in this complex. I have been involved in fastball for the last 11 years and I can tell you that it is not growing, it is shrinking. Indeed, if you look at demographics, you would know that our population of children - especially in the Okanagan, is shrinking. We just closed an elementary school this year because of decreased enrollment. Every year, our association uses LESS diamonds than before and the fields we use are not well taken care of and have been falling into neglect for some time. This is not for children. It is the little emotional card that they all try to play. The second thing is that under no circumstances should we be using agricultural land for anything besides agriculture. Food security is going to be an issue facing us more and more in the coming years - especially as we have passed peak oil. To give up our ability to grow food close to where we live is ridiculously short sighted. At some point, we just have to say 'NO'. No more to development on prime agricultural land. There has to be another solution for playing fields. There has to be a better solution. If it is important to us as a community, then we have to find a better way. Stop thinking of agricultural land as an alternative.

Even if you don't live in Coldstream or the Okanagan, there is something you can do. You can write to the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission and as a resident of British Columbia, you can ask them to maintain the existing Agricultural inventory of Coldstream (or the province) and not approve any applications to change land use for the 120 acre site adjacent to the NORD offices bordered by Highway 6 and Aberdeen Rd. It is an issue for all of us. Don't sit by and let it happen. Be heard. Their address is:

Provincial Agricultural Land Commission
133 - 4940 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC, V5G 4K6
ATTENTION: Martin Collins

What our Coldstream Council will be voting on is whether or not to send an application to the ALC to have the land approved for non-farm status. Right now there are 3 councillors for and 3 against and one undecided. Mary Mallerby is undecided. Her phone number is 542-9579. The next council meeting is Sept 11 at 7pm and there is a large contingent of Vernon people planning to attend the meeting in support of the sports complex on that land. Where are the Vernon people who are against this proposal?

Too often our rights and freedoms are seriously eroded without us even noticing. Did you know that after September 30 you will no longer be able to purchase locally grown, organic chicken? the government has made it impossible for small slaughter houses to operate. From now on all chicken must be slaughtered at government licensed facilities of which there are only a few in Canada. So for the small time operator, it is unrealistic to ship his 100 or 200 or every 500 chickens to a far away slaughter house and unreasonable for him to expect to get the same ones back. So in order to grow your own chickens, you have to kill them yourself. So why was this legislation brought about? Didn't you see all those stories about people dying from bad chickens killed at these small slaughter houses? No... me neither. It serves the greedy mega corporations that fund government who were feeling threatened by the organic, locally grown movement.

When I was a kid, you could buy milk from the farmer down the road. Big milk corporations made that illegal and so organic, unpasteurized milk has been unavailable for almost a generation... unless you keep your own cow. And now chicken will be unavailable. Mine will be slaughtered on the last day that our local slaughterhouse is open. And after Sept 30, it will be illegal for me to sell them. And small time farmers are going to be put out of business. We have lost a major freedom as far as I am concerned and mostly we didn't even notice. It scares me and it reminds me of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Systematically our rights are being eroded and we aren't even paying attention. The real issues barely make the news if at all and often once it is too late. We are like the frog in a pot of water - we aren't noticing how close we are to being cooked! If you are not happy with these changes, or with our current direction of development, make sure your local politicians know. DO SOMETHING!


Heather said...

Do you happen to know the email addresses for any of your councillors? Sept 11 is pretty soon to try to get regular mail there by.

Sometimes it really shocks me that people aren't getting this. All these issues seems to me that it is so much top-of-mind and in the news right now but still those in charge don't seem to be making informed decisions.

Andrea said...

I only have the phone numbers which are listed in the district of Coldstream website under councilors. The address I left is for the ALC and it is not to late to send mail to them as the application has not been sent yet. Hopefully it will not be sent...

katie said...

those kind of things seem to just happen without people really knowing what is going on. it is frustrating.