Despite cold temperatures

Despite cold temperatures

Rally calls for protection of farm land

Supporters of Summerland’s existing Agricultural Land Reserve boundaries participated in a rally on Monday.

Supporters of Summerland’s existing Agricultural Land Reserve boundaries participated in a rally on Monday.

Organizers estimated at least 300 people were present for the noon demonstration.

The rally is in response to Summerland’s proposed Urban Growth Plan, which calls for the removal of around 80 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve near the town core and the inclusion of 91 hectares in the Prairie Valley area.

Supporters of the existing land reserve boundaries have said the land eyed for removal is high quality agricultural land while the land to be added is of a lesser value.

“This is prime agricultural land in a province where prime agricultural land is at a premium,” said Fred Steele, one of the speakers at the rally.

“If we do not protect the land — the foundation of our food supply — we will not be able to supply our domestic market.”

Coun. Peter Waterman, a retired agrologist who has been a vocal opponent of the proposed growth plan, said the land reserve was set up for farm use.

“It is not a housing reserve. It is a food production reserve,” he said. “We must make certain there is good agricultural land for future generations.”

In his comments, Waterman stated he was speaking on his own behalf, not as a representative of municipal council or any individual councillor.

Erin Carlson, a farmer who has organized the Stop the Swap campaign, said the opposition to the plan should not be seen as opposition to development. She said the calls for the preservation of farm land have been ignored.

“We’re raising our voices because we haven’t been listened to,” she said.

Former agriculture minister Corky Evans, who now farms near Winlaw, said the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve was needed when it was formed in the early 1970s.

“Before the Agricultural Land Reserve, we were losing 6,000 hectares a year to development,” he said.

He added that it makes good economic sense to continue to preserve farm land.

The growth plan came before council for first reading on Tuesday evening.

It will be the subject of a public hearing at a special council meeting at the Arena Banquet Room on Monday, March 3 at 7 p.m.

The provincial Agricultural Land Commission, which oversees the land reserve, must give its assent before the growth plan can be adopted.