Your Arm Chair Mayor- Peter Humphreys: ALR Debacle

For approximately 40 years, Revelstoke has had land designated as Agricultural Land Reserve. On the surface, the concept of ALR land in Revelstoke is good, set aside land for local food production. Is this what is actually happening and does this make the best use of the land in the valley?

Some people romanticize of returning to the days before the dam flooded the valley and we had a more active farming community. Were those really the good old days or did people farm just to make ends meet? Did they farm as a hobby or did they need extra money to supplement their logging or railway income?

Some mention food security as a need to have dedicated local farm land. Does food need to be grown down the road to meet this objective or is a farm in Armstrong just as good?

The barriers to farming here in Revelstoke are mainly economic. We don’t have an existing farm base. The absence of a local tractor dealer, parts dealer or supply of used farm implements makes farming more challenging. A truck load of livestock feed costs $450 more to deliver here than it does in Grinrod. We don’t have an egg grading facility, an abattoir or a 4H Club. In fact, with the closure of Acklands Grainger we are losing another business that was needed to support a farming community.

We have all watched the development of large farm buildings beside the highway in Grinrod. Why do you think they are being developed there instead of in Revelstoke? None of these animals ever go outside so the farms could easily be built in Revelstoke on ALR land. The Armstrong/Grinrod area has the farming support structure, not to mention less snow and the extra challenges that it brings.

Due to our high cost of living you can’t make a living off small plot farming in Revelstoke. Rising minimum wage rates makes it difficult to hire staff. Individuals would be better off financially working at Save On instead of farming. At best you can have a hobby farm that is highly subsidized by your full time day job. Farming in Revelstoke will always be done on small plots by dedicated people who do it for the love of farming, with or without the ALR.

The 40 year ALR experiment hasn’t resulted in the development of a farm base in Revelstoke. Several of our current “farms” aren’t even in the ALR.

In a perfect world, ALR land would sell for significantly less and it would make larger scale farming viable but as long as you can build a house on the land it will always be valued for its housing potential instead of for its farming potential. As we see in the lower mainland, the larger ALR lots are highly sought after to build large “farm” houses.

The ALR is inherently flawed and Revelstoke is a prime example of that but there is no easy fix. Give tax breaks to landowners that allow farming on their unused land and we will be seen as giving tax breaks to the rich. Don’t allow homes on farmland and farmers won’t have anywhere to live.

So why are we protecting the farm land through the Agricultural Land Commission?  What has 40 years of ALR done for farming in Revelstoke? The ALR designation hasn’t reduced the price of land here and never will. It’s either time to eliminate the ALR in Revelstoke and deal with farming and development through local governments or revamp the entire ALR program province wide. Maybe we should farm in farming communities and recreate in resort towns.

In my opinion.

Your Arm Chair Mayor,

Peter Humphreys