Letter Sent to Surrey Mayor and Council from Heppells in January 2023.
Re: Disposal of Federal lands on 192nd threatens to disrupt British Columbia's domestic food supply and green economy.
I am writing to you about a threat to British Columbia's domestic food supply and green economy. This threat can be ameliorated through leadership from Surrey Council during the next weeks through a commitment to an OCP amendment and support of an ALC initiated ALR inclusion.
Your support for protecting the land is genuinely appreciated.
Here are the details on the current situation as we understand it:
The Federal Government owned farmland in Surrey is vital to Western Canada’s summer domestic food supply.
The farmland produces much of Western Canada’s first field vegetable production each year. Last year the parcel produced approximately 70% of BC’s domestic potato supply from May till Aug 1. In addition, it produced the majority of early carrots, cabbage, parsnips and much of the earliest winter squash. Each year the parcel produces 30-50 million vegetable servings - enough for a serving for every Metro Vancouverite for 2-3 weeks.
Due to its micro-climate, hilltop location and unique drainage, the farmland produces vegetables before other land in Canada. The land is so unique that potatoes can be planted in February and carrots can be harvested as late as December. No other farmland contributes so much to BC’s domestic field produce supply from May to the beginning of August as this 220-acre parcel does. This period coincides with BC’s heaviest reliance’s Californian production. As Californian production being curtailed by water shortages, all domestic production during this period is vital to the stability of our food supply.
Due to their unique drainage and resilience to extreme weather and flooding, the federal lands also play a unique role in domestic supply chain continuity and market access. The vital importance of resilient domestic supply chains has been driven home during the recent years of pandemic, highway closures, large scale agricultural flooding, border closures and increasingly protectionist trade environments.
The federal government is in the process of selling off the farmland
This parcel, located at 3884 192nd Street has been managed for years by Ministry of Innovation Science and Economic Development (ISED). ISED declared the land to be surplus to its needs and the Parcel is in the process of being disposed of. Disposal of the farmland makes it extremely vulnerable to being lost from food production which has significant implications for the domestic field vegetable supply.
The land has been owned by the Federal Government since the 1940s having been used as a communications facility. In 1974, Heppells Potato Corp in Surrey began investing in the sandy land and through regenerative agriculture methods, building the soil into its current highly productive state.
The federal government still appears committed to disposing the farmland. Our understanding is that Public Services & Procurement Canada (PSPC) is about to solicit Expressions of Interest from federal departments, Crown corporations, provinces, municipalities and Indigenous groups before offering the land for sale to the public.
The land is not currently protected for food production in municipal or ALR zonings:
In the current Official Community Plan the land is zoned for industry/technology.
The land is not currently protected in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
There is strong public interest in protecting the land.
Millions have learned about the risk losing this land poses on Social Media (see Potato Ty on Tiktok)
Over 70,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org/savethefarmland asking that the land be protected for farming.
Many have learned about the lands via media coverage in the last year
Front page of The Province https://epaper.theprovince.com/article/281543704595269
Strong leadership from Surrey Council could help protect the land:
In the upcoming January 19 council meeting Surrey Council members may be able to vote to resolve to amend the OCP zoning to Agriculture (A1).
Will you be willing to put forward a motion to that the City of Surrey is committed to:
Amending the OCP to reflect the food production value of the land?
Support the inclusion of the land into the ALR?
In addition, on January 23 at 7pm a public hearing will be held by the Agricultural Land Commission on the inclusion of the land into the ALR.
A voice from the City of Surrey could be invaluable. Could Surrey Council speak in support the protection of the land’s vital food security role?
Can you help protect the regional food supply for future generations by amending the OCP and protecting this unique and precious land?
We would be delighted to show you the land and discuss its future before the Jan 19 council meeting!
Tristin Bouwman, MSc Plant Science, MSc ID
Crop Manager, Heppells Potato Corp.
Vice President of the Surrey Farmers Institute.
604 835 0068