WITH the right management, southwestern British Columbia could grow a bounty of fresh food, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University researcher told District of North Vancouver council Monday.
Kent Mullinix, a director of sustainable agriculture and food security at Kwantlen, spoke to council in the hopes of attaining a district endorsement as well as a total of $6,000 contributed over the next three years with the ultimate aim of growing more food closer to home.
Kwantlen's three-year, $1.7-million research project is designed to cultivate the next generation of farmers while retaining more of the money spent on food within the province and lessening the environmental impact of sprawling food-distribution networks.
"We have come to fully appreciate the potential of substantially developing a more full and robust local regional food system," Mullinix said.
Mullinix mentioned large tracts of agricultural land which he said are ripe for farming. His viewpoint solicited concern from Coun. Mike Little, who wondered aloud if the economy is strong enough to keep large community farms afloat.
"The subsidies need to be extremely clear because there's a very good reason the market isn't doing this now," Little said. "Why, in your assessment, is the 3,500 acres not being used in Surrey?"
Much of the area in question has been purchased by landowners who do not have an interest in farming, according to Mullinix.
Calling the subject "incredibly important," Coun. Roger Bassam lauded the move to investigate more efficient uses for agricultural land in the region while questioning the district's role in the Kwantlen-spearheaded project.
"I'm somewhat concerned about municipalities getting into the business of funding university studies. It's way outside the scope of our normal business," he said.
Just how much taxpayers would be charged was also a concern for Bassam. "The tax dollars, whether they come from Metro Vancouver or they come from each individual municipality, come from the same taxpayer. Exactly the same taxpayer," he said.
The project includes contribution requests from each municipality in the region. Some of those requests are out of proportion, according to Coun. Robin Hicks.
"It's not a lot for us to pay but I worked for Lions Bay for awhile and any cost to them is a huge imposition," Hicks said.
The project's mandate is to ask for modest funds from each affected municipality, according to Mullinix.
"If they don't contribute something, they won't take it seriously," Mullinix said, quoting advice he'd received prior to addressing council.
Coun. Alan Nixon suggested the district consider granting Mullinix's request at the meeting, but council elected to defer a decision pending a staff report.