Campaign formed to preserve land for agriculture

A campaign has started to keep 87 hectares of land near the downtown core within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

A campaign has started to keep 87 hectares of land near the downtown core within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Erin Carlson, a Summerland farmer and organizer of the Save the Summerland ALR campaign, said the land in question is prime agricultural land.

“This is some of the best farming land in the valley,” she said. “It is flat, arable and would be profitable to a modern farming enterprise.”

While some of the land within the proposed growth area is being used for agriculture, other parcels have sat empty for many years.

Carlson said the land could be productive if the owners were to farm it or lease it to farmers.

“For the last 10 years, we have been growing cherries right across from the proposed site,” she said. “If the landowners were to lease the land out, it would be in production now.”

She added that the land should remain in the land reserve for future agricultural needs.

An amendment to Summerland’s Official Community Plan is scheduled to come before council this winter, with the tentative date of a public hearing in early March.

The proposed change to the community plan is designed to create a more compact, more walkable downtown area.

Carlson said growth should be put on hillsides, not on flat agricultural land.

“There are other options,” she said. “We have to try to work out what the best options are.”

In 2013, consultants held numerous meetings in the preparation for a report on future growth options in Summerland. Around 1,300 people provided input into the plan.

Despite this amount of input, Carlson said the proposal does not represent the wishes of the community. “The second most important thing for the people of Summerland was preserving agriculture,” she said.