West Kelowna  

Finding new farmers land

UPDATE: 11:55 p.m.

In the last year, the B.C. Land Matching program has matched 19 young aspiring farmers with farm land that would have otherwise gone unused. This spring, Eoin Carey began Alpine Roots Farm on a small plot of land in West Kelowna, with help from the program.

The initiative, which started as a pilot project in Metro Vancouver in 2016 but was expanded across Southern B.C. last July, helps aspiring farmers lease arable land from owners that aren't using it. 

On Friday, B.C.'s Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham came to Carey's new farm to announce the province will be continuing the program through the 2019-2020 fiscal year, with $375,000 in continued funding.

Carey says he's had the dream to start his own farm since he was young.

“It's such an important program for young farmers,” he said. “I've been looking for several years on and off, trying to find any type of land for lease. Land prices to purchase are pretty high right now, it's not viable for someone like me to start farming without this program.

“I wouldn't be here today without the B.C. Land Matching Program, there's no way.”

The province works with the Young Agrarians, a network of young farmers, who actually deliver the services, finding land that's suitable for each individual farmer.

Anne Whittal, the owner of the land that Carey's leasing, said they used to have horses on the property, along with their own garden, but the weeding became too difficult for them.

“When we looked out at our lovely land that was increasingly becoming idle, and also when we would drive in our local area and see a lot of the farms and orchards stop producing food, that was a little bit worrying,” Whittal said.

“It's really exciting and it's satisfying to see the farm come alive before our eyes, and I'm particularity looking forward to sampling some of the wonderful things that he's going to be growing and producing here.”

Carey says in his first year, he's hoping to sell his micro greens and vegetables to local restaurants.

“I've spoken to quite a few of the (local chefs) and they're finding it hard to get local food,” Carey said.

ORIGINAL: 10:05 a.m.

B.C.'s Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, is in West Kelowna today.

A government press release indicates her announcement will help young farmers access land in our province.

Popham will be joined by representatives from Young Agrarians.

Castanet reporter Nich Johansen is covering the event and will update with more information from the announcement.

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