The District of North Saanich has approximately 14 km² or 35 % of the District lands in the Agriculture Land Reserve (the ALR) and eight percent of the total ALR land in the CRD. The total land in the District with OCP Agriculture designation is a total of 1,323 hectares or 3,269 acres including 410 lots, of which 366 have been developed in some capacity. Approximately half of the 1,323 hectares are forage and pasture crops (DNS, 2009). The District of North Saanich’s primary agriculture activity includes berry farms, field vegetable and flower farms, vineyards, pasture land, nurseries, greenhouses, stables/riding facility, horse and poultry farms, dairy, beef cattle and sheep/goat farms.
Several government and non-government organizations are working on agriculture issues, including the Peninsula Agricultural Commission and the Capital Regional District (Food and Agriculture Strategy).
The Whole Community Agricultural Strategy identifies marketing, labour shortages, farm worker housing, processing services, training and information, water supply, support agencies and environmental issues as problematic areas important to the sustainability of agriculture. In response, the District has eased restrictions on agricultural signs and farm gate stands and organizes the popular Flavour Trail event every summer to help publicize North Saanich agriculture. As well, initiatives for an agricultural economic strategy and the Sandown Racetrack are in the works.
The results of the Agricultural Study Survey have been completed and compiled. A Land Use Inventory for North Saanich was completed by the province in 2009. An Agriculture Area Plan was completed in 2010, and the Whole Community Agricultural Strategy was completed in 2011. The last two documents identified several challenges facing agriculture in North Saanich. One of the priority challenges pertained to the economic viability of agriculture. It was noted that agricultural economic viability and profits have declined in the recent past. Factors affecting farm and producer’s profit include high land values, labour availability, aging farm population, no extension support, reduction in agricultural research, climate change and water supply.
To help address the challenge of economic viability a consultant was commissioned to work with the agri-food sector to complete an Economic Development Strategy for Agriculture. The Strategy was released in 2012, and it identifies Best Practices for local government, and 27 priority actions to retain and enhance farming in North Saanich.
In 2013, District Planning staff and the Agricultural Advisory Commission reviewed the Strategy and updated the priority areas to reflect the current status of agriculture in the District. Through this process it became clear that the implementation of the Strategy would only happen as the result of initiative taken by various organizations involved with agriculture in the District and region. To help guide this process, Planning staff prepared an Implementation and Monitoring Plan, which was adopted by Council in June 2014. Through the application of this Plan, it is anticipated that the District will seek opportunities to work with other municipalities, organizations and agencies in the delivery of the priority action for the benefit of both farmers and eaters.