by Paul Schachter Establishment of Full Circle Farm (FCF) is an important part of restoring our local agriculture [“Farmers split on common goal,” April 9]. Powell River’s farmers once raised nearly 50 per cent of the food consumed in this area. Today that figure is two per cent or less.
The Economic Development Plan for Agriculture released by Powell River Regional District in November 2009 projected that the “Powell River region could approach 24 per cent self-sufficiency in the future, based on the value of agricultural production.” The report found that the biggest factor holding back agriculture in the region was the small size of its agricultural industry. Agriculturist Gary Rolston wrote, “The local industry must reach and maintain a certain size, scale and product mix to support the local businesses, industry and infrastructure needed for local production.”
FCF will only produce a fraction of the increase in local food production, but its output will help all farmers get to the critical mass that the Economic Development Plan found necessary for Powell River’s farming to grow. The rest would be produced by local farming businesses. In addition, FCF has goals of increasing the number of local farmers through education and creation of easier market entry points, enhancing the skills of existing farmers, increasing the availability of local produce and providing better retail opportunities.
An important principle is that Full Circle Farm will have to succeed as a business. It will pay fair market value for lease of lands used in farm operations as well as for its labour, goods and services. Those requirements ensure that Full Circle Farm will not unfairly compete with other area producers.
Full Circle Farm has consulted with all levels of local government and key community organizations. It has the support of the overwhelming majority of people who have reviewed the design of the project.
Kathy Rebane and her husband, Alan, have been vocal foes of FCF, relying on unsupported speculation that a community-based farm will unfairly compete with their own business. That opinion is plainly misguided. The conclusion of the agricultural experts that farming in our region needs a project like FCF is based on hard facts and makes good sense.
Paul Schachter is secretary-treasurer of the Society for the Advancement of Local Sustainable Agriculture.