by Martin McFarlane and Sierra Rae
Farmers and scientists weigh in on city’s local agriculture scene
Could the City of Kamloops sustain residents exclusively on local food sources? According to the director of the Kamloops Food Policy Council, the answer is no. Kamloops is too dependent on food shipped from outside the area rather than local sources, said director Dave Whiting.
Whiting, whose background is in natural resource science, said that climate change makes food security an issue.
“The stronger our local food system, the less vulnerable we are to climate change impacts,” Whiting said.
TRU ecologist Lauchlan Fraser said that Kamloops needs more small, local farms in order to increase food security and to lessen its environmental footprint, but it would still be vulnerable to climate change.
“One of the issues with climate change is unpredictable precipitation patterns and increased drought,” Fraser said.
A drought in the Kamloops area could lower harvests and would require food produced elsewhere to be shipped into the city, he said.
Ted Blackwell, owner of Blackwell Dairy, said that with the amount of commercial food production in the area, Kamloops has enough food to sustain itself.
“In overall dollars and volume, we are probably sustainable now,” Blackwell said, adding that there is potential to expand the agricultural sector.
“There’s a lot of room for growth that just needs the entrepreneurial spirit of people getting out there and figuring out how they can help the sector.”
Commercial-scale food security has recently been promoted through Kamloops Farmland Connections, a conference in March supported by the Kamloops Food Policy Council, Whiting said. It connected potential local farmers with landowners so they can look at starting their own farm businesses.
According to a City of Kamloops report on its Agricultural Area Plan, there are 13,023 hectares of land in the city of Kamloops, and over 500,000 hectares in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District designated as Agricultural Land Reserve. Its uses are restricted to developing farms and ranches among other agricultural uses.
Whiting said that there are several programs designed to promote small-scale urban agriculture and food security, including the local farmer’s market, community gardens, the Gleaning Abundance Program, and Gardengate. These programs create community and connections in between different groups of people who are all interested in the local food system, said Herman Hothi, farmer and owner of Nu Leaf Produce Market.
“People have a hunger. Not just for food, but for community,” he said.
Hothi said he is optimistic about the future of local farming and sees food security as being a possible goal for Kamloops.
“Kamloops is farmland. The potential is huge,” he said.